Young composers writing for harp

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    rosalind-beck on #148476

    I believe this subject has been discussed before, but I would appreciate advice from anyone who is willing to respond (again).

    carl-swanson on #148477

    10 minutes??? The most important thing??? Tell them to write down little ideas they’ve got and then have a harpist play

    rosalind-beck on #148478

    I know, Carl, ten minutes is ridiculous, but that’s the amount of time I was told I will have.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #148479

    Tell them to keep to basics, what they know, or will soon know, works. Four notes per hand maximum. Maximum interval between fingers, a fourth, sixth with thumb. No overlapping. Use scales, arpeggios, glissandi. Broken chord patterns: 1423, 1243, 4231, etc., but not 1324, preferably. Show them the range in which melody sounds well, the range for chords, and where they get muddy. Demonstrate harmonics and muffling. And avoid chromatic passages.

    If they see it in Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky, Debussy and whoever else you think is safe, then it is okay to do it. Do not use Strauss, Wagner, Ravel, Bartok as examples. (Ravel has some very tricky and awkward passages.) They can consult the Berlioz-Strauss Orchestration text, and Gardner Read, but be wary of others. Unless you know of one that is quite accurate. I don’t know all of them, but don’t know any offhand that are completely trustworthy.

    Sylvia Clark on #148480

    One of my pet peeves, as previously listed, is composers who write in pedal markings.

    rosalind-beck on #148481

    Saul, thank you for some fine suggestions.

    kreig-kitts on #148482

    I’d also suggest having a handout you can give them or a file you can email them or make available for downloading, with more details. That way you can emphasize the major points and instead of getting bogged down in specifics refer them to the list/chart/handout.

    kreig-kitts on #148483

    Oh, if it’s a physical handout, don’t give it out until AFTER you’re done. If they get it before, they will read it while you’re talking and not pay attention.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #148484

    With many scores available as free downloads, you can give them a list of scores they can study. The Faure solos are good examples of what can be done with simple means, also the Saint-Saens Fantaisie, for starters. You can also give them a list of good parts and bad parts. But, being young composers, I don’t know if orchestra needs to be the focus. I am working on this material, and it is time-consuming. I think showing how we correct things is excellent, but that is too detailed for what you are doing. Other than basics, like chords with too many notes.

    The errors I am seeing most these days in younger composers is, due to computers, overlapping notes between hands, re-playing notes too soon, and impossible reaches.

    rosalind-beck on #148485

    All very good points, Sylvia.

    Katherine Denler on #148486

    You can also refer to “Writing for the Pedal Harp” by Inglefield/Neill or even the Chaloupka “Harp Scoring”. The Inglefield covers a great deal with an accompanying cd of examples. The Chaloupka is short and sweet.

    Good luck! 🙂

    patricia-jaeger on #148487

    Besides Katherine’s good sources above, a harp composer could look into Lucille Lawrence’s “The ABC of Harp Playing”, pages 41 through 68, and also Henriette Renie’s “Complete Method for Harp, Second Book (English translation by Geraldine Ruegg), pages 205 through 225. Examples are given of difficult sections or poorly written ones

    rosalind-beck on #148488

    Thanks Patricia and Katherine for your fine suggestions.

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