The Extended Harp

12.05.2011. Concert Hall, R-Talo, Sibelius Academy.

Program:

Kaija Saariaho (1952-)             Fall(1991) for harp and electronics

R. Murray Schafer (1933-)       The Crown of Ariadne (1980) for solo harp with percussion  (played by the harpist)

                                                       1. Ariadne Awakens
                                                       2. Ariadne's Dance
                                                       3. Dance of the Bull
                                                       4. Dance of the Night Insects
                                                       4A. Ariadne's Dream
                                                       5. Sun Dance
                                                       6. Labyrinth Dance (Theseus and Ariadne)

------

Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996)   Stanza II (1971) for harp and tape

Georges Aperghis(1945-)         Fidélité, pour harpiste seule regardée par un homme(1982)
                                                                      (for a solo harpist watched by a man)

 

Performers:

Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir   Harp

James Andean                  Electronics

 

Program notes

I have chosen to call this concert program of my third doctoral concert The Extended Harp. The title reflects what all the pieces have in common; the harp's sound world has been extended by means of additional sound sources. As a performer, I find it challenging to explore the limits of my instrument and myself as a harpist. In this program I take on the roles of percussionist, singer, actor and even dancer. However, the music is always in the foreground. The additional sounds and actions all derive from the music itself and are closely intertwined with it. In this way they truly extend the harp's (and the harpist's) horizon.

Kaija Saariaho Fall

 

Born in Helsinki in 1952 Kaija Saariaho is one of Finlands most renowned composers. After attending the Helsinki University of Art and Design, she studied at the Sibelius Academy and later at the Freiburg Musikhochschule. In 1982 she moved to Paris where she lives and works. In Paris she has worked regularly at IRCAM where she has explored the possibilities of new technology such as live electronics, tape and computer-assisted composition. Saariaho's search for new timbres has lead her to explore new instrumental techniques and combinations of instrumental music and live electronics as is the case in the piece Fall for harp solo and live electronics.

The piece forms a part of the ballet Maa (‘The Earth'), commissioned by the Finnish National Ballet in 1991. Fall is part six of the seven-part ballet. In fact, number symbolism plays its own role in the piece: the ballet is written for seven instrumentalists, and each of the work's seven main movements divides further into seven subsections.

Fall showcases two important elements that made their appearance in Saariaho's music in the later 1980s. "On the one hand there is repeated, decorative motivic material in which a subtle and gradual transformation of the melodic and rhythmic substance is brought about by the application of computer interpolation; on the other one finds even rhythmic pulsations which may be considered one extremity on that scale of rhythmic figurations produced by computer-controlled transformation."1

The piece is thus strangely organic and mechanical at the same time. This feeling is emphasized by the live electronics. Subtle and delicate, the live-electronics give the rhythmical harp part a mysterious and dream-like aura.

R. Murray Schafer The Crown of Ariadne

 

R. Murray Schafer is a Canadian composer and writer. Born in 1933 he was mostly self-taught as a composer. Schafer's music ranges from instrumental and vocal compositions to works for the stage. His compositions are often quite theatrical and programmatic and inspired by literary, philosophical, mythological or other extra-musical sources.

In the Crown of Ariadne Schafer uses an arsenal of percussion instruments that are played by the harpist herself. He strives to incorporate the external sounds into the harps soundworld by imitating and intertwining the two soundscapes. Furthermore the gestures of the harpist suggest choreography, in certain places the movements of the harpist's arms are even notated in the score.

In his collection of program notes Schafer writes the following about the Crown of Ariadne:

"The harpist Judy Loman had been asking me to write a harp work for some time. It was Toru Takemitsu who suggested that such a work might include bells, played by the harpist. Judy and I quickly set to work devising ways for the harpist to play a variety of bells and several other small percussion instruments together with the harp. At the time I was beginning to plan Patria 5: The Crown of Ariadne, which would tell the story of Theseus and Ariadne, the Minotaur and the Labyrinth. The work would be a dance drama and Ariadne's instrument would be the harp. The various titles of the movements indicate Ariadne's involvement in the story."

Toru Takemitsu Stanza II

 

Toru Takemitsu is undeniably Japan's best-known composer. Mostly self-taught, he drew his inspiration from Western music he heard on American and European radio stations during the post-second world war years in Japan.

In 1951 Takemitsu was a founding member of the anti-academic group Jikken Kōbō. The group was a sort of experimental workshop established for multidisciplinary collaboration between artists and focused on mixed-media projects. The group sought to avoid Japanese artistic tradition and introduced several contemporary Western composers to Japanese audiences. Takemitsu himself had a complicated relationship with his musical heritage. In his early works he tried to exclude the influence of Japanese music from his compositions. Later, however, he fully acknowledged the importance of Japanese traditional music and started to use it as the basis of his own compositions.

During Takemitsu's years as a member of the Jikken Kōbō, he experimented with compositions of musique concrète and a very limited amount of electronic music, the most notable example being Stanza II for harp and tape written in 1971.

In Stanza II, Takemitsu juxtaposes two worlds, the more "natural" sounds of the harp and the artificial sounds coming from the tape. The tape, however, also includes natural sounds, such as birdcalls and human voices. The piece is under some influence of Japanese traditional music, but also obviously strongly influenced by Luciano Berio's Sequenza II for solo harp written in 1963. Various sound effects as well as the notation of Stanza II are derived from Berio's harp SequenzaStanza II is a child of its time, with the tape part arriving from the publisher on a DAT-tape. Nevertheless it is an excellent example of an experimental yet traditional Takemitsu.

Georges Aperghis Fidélité - pour harpiste seule regardée par un homme

 

George Aperghis was born in Athens in 1945, but immigrated to Paris in 1963. In the 60's and 70's he was, together with Mauricio Kagel, one of the leading figures in the music-theater movement. His experiences in the theater certainly shaped what characterizes his composing: the importance of the relationship between the composer and the performer. Completely composed, Aperghis music does not blur the roles of composer and performer, but draws its fundamental impulse from the meeting of the two. Most of his music is dedicated to certain performers and composed in close collaboration with them. The pieces tend to develop and change as rehearsals progress. His works are inspired by everyday life, they project social realities and transpose them to a poetic world that is often absurd and satirical.

Many of his scores are in a way "portraits" of close collaborators, portraits that showcase intimate relationships and mutual loyalty.

Loyalty or Fidelité was written in 1982 for Brigitte Sylvestre. It is a part of the music-theater work Tryptique written for Brigitte Silvestre and her husband, the percussionist Gaston Sylvestre. Tryptique has three parts, Coup de Foudre for solo precussion, Compagnie for harp and percussion and Fidelité for solo harp. As in many works of Georges Aperghis, spoken or sung words and gestures are closely related and form an important part of Fidelité.

"In this piece written for Brigitte Sylvestre, the gesture of the harpist, captured in the action itself of producing sounds, is associated with talking and singing. The piece evokes a "moment" in the life of the female performer, an intimate space where everything could be said. The three main themes of Fidelité are closely linked: the relationship of the woman with her instrument (the joy of playing), with music (the confrontation of the performer with the sounds of language) and her own identity or life as a (married) woman. This triangle shapes a world of conflicts." George Aperghis

 

 

Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir

 

 

Sources:

 

Adams, Stephen J. "Schafer, R. Murray." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 1. Apr. 2011

 

Aperghis, George. "Program notes." www.aperghis.com. 1.Apr. 2011

 

Burton, Anthony. "Aperghis, Georges." The Oxford Companion to Music. Ed. Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online. 1 Apr. 2011

 

Gindt, Antoine. "Aperghis, Georges." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 1 Apr. 2011

 

Heg, Hans. 2009. CD booklet for " Visions, Lavinia Mayer". Channle Classics CCS SA 29709

 

Korhonen, Kimmo and Nieminen, Risto. "Saariaho, Kaija." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. 1 Apr. 2011

 

Nuorvala, Juhani. "Program Notes for Maa." www.schirmer.com. 1.Apr.2011

 

Schafer, R. Murray. "Program Notes." www.patria.org/arcana/Programnotes.pdf 1.Apr. 2011

 

 

1 Juhani Nuorvala. "Program Notes for Maa." www.schirmer.com/accessed 01.04.2011