Introduction

In the last 50 years the harp has become increasingly popular in contemporary music. However, general knowledge of the instrument's essence, its functions, and in particular its notation still seems to be inadequate and inconsistent. Although orchestration manuals and instrumentation books usually have a special chapter on the harp, many of them are surprisingly erroneous. With this website I hope to create a comprehensive, up-to-date guide to the harp for composers, editors, harpists and others.

As a harpist, specializing in contemporary music, I have noticed that composers are often afraid of the harp. The instrument has an image of being difficult and inaccessible to anyone but specialists.  Many composers nowadays are either overly careful and therefore limited when writing for the harp, or they ignore the harp's functions to the point where the music they write is nearly unplayable.

As a performer of contemporary music, I feel an especially urgent need for a synchronized system of notation for contemporary harp music. Even the most common effect of harp playing, harmonics, has more than one way of being notated. Where more unorthodox effects and techniques are concerned, the notational challenges are even more problematic.

With this website I hope to provide a clear and thorough explanation of the harp by focusing on its intrinsic nature. I believe that when a composer really understands the possibilities of the instrument the knowledge will be of more use than long lists of technical limitations.

Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir