February 23, 2007 at 9:49 pm #86366
Okay, there’s a lot to say here. Obviously, I meant e-natural and f-flat, or e-sharp and f-natural. Or should have.
I think Salzedo would have been the same. His influence from Edgard Varese may have been there as he was also in Paris before New York, and the other influence I know of, Dane Rudhyar, was also in Paris. Salzedo’s composing developed from the chromatic academic style similar to Pierne’s early work, as seen in its apotheosis in his Ballade, where he expanded the tonal harmony, the voicings and nature of his chord progressions to introduce hints of polytonality, earlier than Milhaud. His Poetical Studies and works of that time are decidedly impressionistic. His next vein, like Quietude and similar pieces, were possibly influenced by Rudhyar and prefigure new-age music and all kinds of things yet to come. His scales in Flight were created long before Messaien did similar work. He increased the angularity and purity of his sounds, including harsh and percussive colors new to the harp, yet remained tonal, though his line tends to be more and more angular and hyperkinetic, as in his concerti. He invents deconstructive thought in his paraphrases on American folk songs, like Traipsin through Arkansaw, long before Derrida and other philosophers caught up to him. He did like to find the forefront in every path, including his hobby of photography. A man of his times. He followed the fertile path of acoustically based harmony and tonality that I feel is the strongest and most legitimate path through the 20th century and into the future. He, in accordance with the acoustic nature of the harp, emphasizes open intervals, and wider chord spacings. You frequently find fourths, fifths, sixths and sevenths in his pieces, and his chord voicings are usually wide, and the chords regularly incorporate the tones of the 9th, 11th and 13th degrees, as early as Ballade. He was not the first perhaps, looking at Stravinsky, but right apace with the others in the forefront. Stravinsky’s Svezdoliki is the first piece I know of in the 20th c. to be based entirely on 4ths, 4ths and acoustic harmony, but I’m sure the elemets of that go at least as far back as Musorgsky. If only we knew what concerts he attended in his youth. He was active in Monte Carlo, I haven’t matched up the dates yet, but if he overlapped with the Ballets Russes, he would have encountered Stravinskyisms.
De Falla, Villa Lobos, Turina, Rodrigo, Martin, Hindemith, and many more great European composers followed the acoustic harmony path, as do I, and I think Esme’s dismissal of modern European composers should be far more restricted to the atonalists and postwar trendites. Henze stands out, a little. I respect Dutilleux and Jolivet, and Rodrigo was a great who died only recently. Many, many great Spanish composers we barely know, like Espla, Gerhard, Halffter and others. The Concerto by Moreno-Buendia is one of the best I have heard. I have not heard the works by Montsalvatge, the solo and the concerto. They may be as great as his Cinque Cancions de Negras, if we are fortunate.
Busser and Pierne went on to write some interesting work as they got older, and there is Cras, Zbinden and others. The avant-garde succeeded in suppressing much work by more traditional composers, so we must dig to find it. I am flattered that Esma thinks American composers did so much great work.
Now, a list of some pieces we would not have as they are but for Salzedo’s precedents:
Persichetti Serenade and Parable
Wagenaar Four Vignettes
If more composers knew his notations, how much clearer their music would be to learn.February 24, 2007 at 1:48 pm #86367jennifer-buehlerMember
Thanks for the rundown!February 26, 2007 at 10:04 pm #86368
To follow up on the thoughts about repertoire quality, I think I have isolated a distinguishing factor between the music composed by harpists and the music composed for harp by composers: I am working on a sonata, and mostly using the piano to write, keeping in mind what should work on the harp and checking the voicing; where I would work on the harp much more extensively normally, and only use the piano for back-up. The result is quite different. It is more pianistic, could be a piano piece nearly as much as a harp piece, and as a result it sounds so much more like what composers write for the harp. I think their lack of intimacy with the harp gives them more freedom, as using a piano certainly gives great harmonic freedom. Writing from the harp point of view builds in more limitations, partly because of what has come before, and also the awareness of what we tend to want it to do. But the choices made by the composers broaden our horizons and enrich us as often as they dismay, distort and disrespect our instrument.February 27, 2007 at 10:15 am #86369unknown-userParticipant
Rather than isolating harpists against non harpists composers, there is also the inbetween…. I’m referring to the composers who choose to work directly with a hapist along the way of composition… and not just after its finished for editing… I’v been working with a Japanese composers for the past couple of months on a work she’s composing for her doctorate portfolio, and it has turned out into a work very-well written for the harp… unfortunately few composers choose to do this… as well… I’v realised along the years that the best harp-compositions (as to understanding of the instrument’s possibilities and boundaries) come either from harpists themselves… of composers who were either married (or fooling around) with harpists….
I have to make this point… I think that a big majority of the fact that we end up performing a lot of piano type scored music is really our fault… especially, we the young ones tend to fall for this very easily… composers might approach us with a new work.. and we’ll perform it no matter what… just so our CV’s will gladly pronounce that we were the performance at the premier of some work… just to have out names written on the eventual publish of the work or something… well its only a few of us who are ready to stand up and say “no sorry… its piano written.. I’m a harpist…”November 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm #86370
I have been thinking about the musical differences between the standard pieces by harpist and those by composers. The harpist-composers tend to be more repetitive, and composers tend to vary more or come up with new ideas. If you compare the left-hand parts of Dussek (Sonatinas) to Krumpholtz, you might see what I mean. The composers don’t settle for less, but aim higher. It is hard, I can say for myself, not to be satisfied with the first way a piece seems to work out, and to keep searching for improvements.November 9, 2008 at 1:10 am #86371mr-sMember
Carl i am astonished like you about a clever composers especially when they are harpists too and they do mistakes, and also som reductor you know Morceau de concert by saint sans,some time you face non logical writings no enough fingers for playing it all or a very wide chords that hands cant catch it, well saint sans is not a harpist, but what about Zabel? i asked week ago about his piece La Source, some one answered me and said its a hand breaker whyyy? Zabel is a great harp player and teacher why he did it like that without thinking of other harpists with a middle or small hand’s size??????? and the same as you reffered about some double bb or double ##November 9, 2008 at 11:49 pm #86372
I think they were so well-trained in music theory, that double-flats and sharps didn’t bother them at all, and when you are composing, they make more sense than writing notes as played.
Most great harpists write what they can play, and leave it to us to catch up to them if we can. Salzedo’s Ballade is full of huge chords, but your hand can stretch to accomodate them with the right exercises. Or not. Then you don’t play it. I find pieces that lay too easily in my hand to be boring. I can almost sight read much of Tournier because of that.
Basel, you are just beginning to realize all the frustrations and annoyances of a harpist’s life, I suspect.November 10, 2008 at 12:01 am #86373mr-sMember
Hi Saul, realizing frustrations change nothing in the matter,but facing it all is the right way, but do you think that the harpist’s life is full of frustrations and annoyances??? i know our life is not easy at all,but not so black.December 1, 2008 at 1:30 am #86374Julietta Anne RabensParticipant
As is mentioned before, every instrument deals with enharmonic notes to some extent, but it is more troublesome for the harpist. The theoretical aspect probably does tend to be more important to whomever is dealing with the big picture. Having the note notated with the correct harmonies is especially important for the conductor when dealing with the full score. Interpreting enharmonic in the harp part in addition to the other instruments transpositions would be difficult. If the harp part did have the notes written in alignment with the pedaling, it could confuse communication between harpist and conductor. I guess it is a big picture vs. individual perspective situation.
I have a question about the notation of harmonics. I have heard, but cannot verify at the moment, that harmonics written were sounding have the circle written above and the harmonics written where played have a diamond shape. I think there are also cases of having the small circle above the note where played. The main issue here is one of consistency of notation which will likely be ongoing as both music and the instrument evolve. As long as the notation of harmonics could become consistent, I don’t see how it would matter which way was the standard. It’s rather straightforward either way.December 1, 2008 at 2:00 am #86375carl-swansonParticipant
I think violin harmonics are written as a diamond. But are they written where played or where they sound? I don’t know.
To me, all notation for harp should tell you where to put your fingers. That is why I hate double flats and double sharps. And I don’t want to see A sharp if in reality I have to play B flat. That is why I hate the harmonics-where-they-sound business. Writing the harmonic where it sounds does not tell you where to put your fingers. Finally, for time out of mind, harmonics have been written where they are played(where to put your fingers). It was typical of Salzedo to change something like that, just to put his own stamp on it.December 1, 2008 at 2:36 am #86376
The only time I have ever seen harp harmonics written with a diamond-shaped note are when they are the harmonics of the twelfth. Clifford Wooldridge unfortunately introduced a diamond-shaped note to clumsily indicate the octave where they are played in his “edition” of Salzedo’s Variations Sur Un Theme dans le style ancien.
If harp harmonics are only notated where they are played, then how can you indicate that it is the twelfth or another harmonic to be produced rather than the octave? One would have to invent yet another notation.
Unfortunately, musical notation is not all about convenience, it is based on tradition and logic and whims of publishers and composers. Salzedo was right to change the notation to make it consistent with other instruments, and to put the emphasis on how it sounds. Perhaps he found he got better results from his students that way. I know that a lot of harpists have not mastered the craft of playing great harmonics.
Salzedo did create a new view of the harp,December 2, 2008 at 5:38 pm #86377rosalind-beckParticipant
Amen, sister.December 22, 2008 at 4:03 pm #86378Mel SandbergParticipant
I did not know that the invention of the pedal diagram was Salzedo’s, but I also always thought it was the best thing ever, untilDecember 22, 2008 at 4:48 pm #86379carl-swansonParticipant
Mel- I tend to be like you. Before starting to really learn a piece I go through a layout process where I put in all of the pedals where I want to see them, possible fingerings, etc. Only then do I start learning to play the piece.
But frankly, that is a luxury that some harpists cannot afford. The Hollywood studio harpists spent their whole career sight-reading hand written manuscript in which nothing but the notes were written, glisses were just squiggly lines without even indicating what the harmony was supposed to be, and sometimes there was just a melody line with no harmony indicated. These harpists, the most famous being Dorothy Remsen, Catherine Gotthoffer, and Ann Stockton, could read anything. Many pop and jazz harpists are the same way. I wish I had that skill but I don’t.
I would encourage any harp student to learn to play:
1) music that has no fingerings or pedals written in.
2) music where the fingerings and pedals were written in by someone else.
3) music that the student has laid out him/herself.
It’s very important for students and professionals to be able to read music all three ways.December 22, 2008 at 8:40 pm #86380Mel SandbergParticipant
Carl, thank God I’m not a Hollywood Harpist.
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