Two harpists debate the shortcut versus the long road
—by Lynne Aspnes and Heidi Surniolo
Ed.—Just after the New Year, I received a text message from a harp friend and college classmate, Heidi Sturniolo. She texted our former teacher, Lynne Aspnes, and me to tell us how much she was loving Gayle Barrington’s edition of Tournier’s Vers la source dans le bois, a piece Heidi had played when we were undergrads at the University of Michigan. She sent a photo of both her original part and her newly downloaded edition from Harp Column Music, side by side on her music stand. “The best money I ever spent buying music I already own,” she wrote. “Yes. I paid you $16.95 for music I already owned. It’s a thousand times easier to read. The enharmonics are such a nightmare in the original.” What followed was an impassioned debate between former student and teacher, which illustrates the decisions harpists increasingly face between the ways we have always learned how to do things and shortcuts that modern advances afford us. Where do you come down on this debate? Go online to harpcolumn.com and let us know.
Lynne: Sure it’s easier to read, but there’s a learning trade off that we have to take into account along the way. Traditional theoretical notation may look daunting on the page, and having to translate terms from their original language might seem an exercise in futility, but for me, this is an important stage in the learning process, one that informs students of the history of our discipline. Scientific studies support the concept that learning made easy can be learning made impermanent. My old-school approach definitely defends the idea that learning made a challenge may contribute to deeper learning of the entire process. Learning made simple might get you there faster, but possibly with fewer long term benefits. And then there’s the age old trope of taking the high road versus embracing shortcuts. We are in an age of evolution in music notation, to be sure. But are we prepared to dismiss the frequent complexity of the traditional, in favor of the expedient?
Heidi: I almost left you out of this thread for that exact reason, I know. Ethically I had an issue, but seriously, I just played the first several pages at a nice clip because I didn’t have to convert every other red circled note. The eye scramble is the biggest reason I haven’t returned to this baby in 20-plus years.