Tuesday, July 31, 2012

more days at Menlo

Saturday: It's the Young Performers concert. Yeah, thrill to the ten-year-olds playing chamber music by Beethoven, Mozart, and Mendelssohn like seasoned professionals.

Sunday: This.

Monday: Sunday's harpist gave a harp talk. I learned quite a bit. Yes, there's lots of pieces requiring the harpist to knock on the soundboard. The modern double-action harp was invented around the turn of the 20th century to allow harpists to play fully chromatic music like Ravel's Introduction and Allegro which was promptly written for that purpose. It has seven pedals, one each attached to all the strings in different octaves playing the same note, and allows each of them to be raised or lowered one-half step. Want to play a pentatonic scale glissando? Just raise all your B's and E's half a step, and you're done. The pedals also enable you to play the same (flatted or sharped) note twice in quick succession without dampening the vibrating string and thus cutting off the sound.

For this reason harpists have to plan out their pedal settings and rarely sight-read music. The harpist told of one conductor who, during rehearsal, when he wanted to start the music somewhere in the middle, to give the harpist time to set the pedals for how they'd be needed at that moment, would say, "Harp, start your motor!"

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