So after a while primarily playing my own music, I’ve started to get back into playing classical. And I realize that I actually hate a lot of my old repertoire. Would like very much to learn some music for harp that CANNOT be accurately described as “soothing”, “angelic”, or “whimsical”. Like, we are so much more than that! Where’s the angry harp music? The epic harp music? The hauntingly passionate harp music? Etc… Can anybody help me out? Looking for sheet music recommendations. Any time period ok, harp arrangements of music for other instruments ok. Just as long as its solo.
Ehm… I think I dont’quite understand what you mean with ‘non cliché music’ for the harp, but the way I see it, whether a classical piece of music sounds cliché has more to do with the way it is played than the way it is composed.
Nonetheless, I think you are looking for a little bit variety in your repertory. Perhaps you like the way Deborah Henson-Conant plays and arranges pieces.
Which ones exactly do you hate? Salzedo’s originals are not whimsical, soothing or angelic. Scintillation, Ballade, Whirlwind? Elena Kats Chernin’s Chamber of Horrors. Hindemith. Crown of Ariadne. Britten Suite. Peggy Glanville Hicks sonata. Paul Patterson’s insect things. Many/most Baroque works. Spanish transcriptions. If you watch a recital by a great “classical” soloist like Sasha Boldachev (very good one on you tube) it might include “soothing” pieces like the Chopin Etude no 1 op25 but they are also haunting and passionate and it will have “epic” things too including his own arrangements of Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Petrushka!
Certainly your post had a lot of cliches and is unclear as to what you want to play. I would suggest you listen to harp music on YouTube to get an idea of what music you are seeking. Spotify is another good source. Maybe if you can be more specific on your likes and dislikes along with your playing level and type harp you play (pedal, lever, double-strung etc.), it would be easier to recommend music.
Gretchen’s suggestion is a good one, i.e. listen to a number of different genres – a lot are on Youtube, then home in on sheet music. Soothing seems a bit vague to me but here are a few pieces and players that are definitely not part of the classical repertoire but sound great on the harp: Jonathan Fanagiello (heavy metal, Frank Voltz (Jazz), Alfredo Rolando Ortiz (South American), Deborah Henson-Conant (Blues), The Harp Twins (Pop).
Well this isn’t clichéd, listening and watching a teenager play Ravel’s Jeux d’eau on the piano yesterday made me assume it would be impossible on the harp but no, Varvara Ivanova and Oliver Wass have done it and Oliver was interviewed here in harp column in 2016.
You seem frustrated by the harp repertoire but I, like many others, feel that these critics are not warranted. For sure, when you take the whole range of instruments, people are going to think that harp music is more “angelic” than drums. However,like you said, harp music is much more than that.
Like others above have said, some artiste like Sacha Boldachev alternate classical piece with pop music. Here at 1h22mn in, there’s punk.
I would argue that a lot of harp music cannot be described as “whimsical” or “soothing”. Most of the classical of Celtic repertoire can be adapted in many ways. Jigs and reels, of with there are plenty, are not “angelic”.
As for “Epic Harp Music” or “hauntingly passionate harp music”, well.. that is a question of interpretation rather than actual repertoire. There’s a lot of
Omnia is a Pagan Folk band and their harp is not always whimsical : here, the song Tine Bealtaine.
Other metal pagan bands have included the harp in some way, like Eluveitie.
I believe that you are asking for something different with the harp :
Tristan le Govic Trio is a great example of jazzy music with harp :
Definitely look into them.
Others have mentioned Deborah Hanson-Conan. You can also look into Cécile Corbel, but that might no be the style you are looking for.
Please give us feedback concerning the different artists that have been recommended to you so that we can understand your frustration better.
If you’re a moderately advanced pedal player, take a look at Meyer Op. 4. This is from the height of his “Sturm und Drang” period, and while the music is fascinating and beautiful, it’s very far from either clicheed or angelic!
Gramatik’s “Illusion of choice” has two simple harp parts that I could play by ear. It is kinda challenging because the notes jump around the entire 5 octaves of the harp, but it’s a fun thing to play to take a break from the cliches.
There’s also a harp version of an old Newgrounds techno song that works surprisingly well :
While it’s pretty clear the song wasn’t written for humans to play, there are still some simpler part that I could play (1:07 is my fave) , and the rest of it, when simplified might also be possible to play.
Aside from the aforementioned folk, celtic and jazz, I have a feeling that there’s a massive potential for harps to fit into the techno/trance genre with its cool arpeggios. But alas, I’m just a beginner enthusiast so I wouldn’t be starting a new harp genre movement anytime soon.
An interesting thing to do: put aside music written specifically for the harp and focus on what you like in other genres and/or instruments. For example, two pieces I rather like are “Heart of Glass” by Blondie (Debby Harry) and “Memory” from the film Departure, composed by Joe Hasashi.
At first glance one might never consider either as a harp solo piece but they both sound great when played that way. Neither is particularly complicated’ while lending themselves to interesting harmonic improvisation.
Thank you all for your amazing suggestions! I will definitely try learning some of these.
To answer some of the people’s questions about me: I was looking primarily for classical (including modern classical) music. My harp is a pedal harp.
Again, thank you all for coming through with the great recs!
If you live anywhere near a harp music dealer, such as Holywell, or Lyon & Healy West, go there and browse. There is nothing you can do online that is comparable to browsing through sheet music yourself. You can also do that at harp conferences. There are tons and tons of pieces. If you look at the classical era, and the modern era, you will find plenty that is not clichéd. But in the 19th century, you will find most of it clichéd. The difference is primarily whether the music is by a harpist or by a “real” composer in that period. It is heartening that you want something more substantial.
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