Introduction to note bending techniques used in my compositions, Beyond the Horizon & Celestial Spirals
Written in 2019, Beyond the Horizon and Celestial Spirals share the same 3 note motif and can be played together as a two movement work or individually. Both pieces explore an ethereal ‘out of this world’ soundscape and feature on Lauren Scott’s debut album, ‘Beyond the Horizon’ - New Music for Lever Harp (AVIE2417). Written for lever harp, they can also be played on pedal harp with some adaptation by the player.
Beyond the Horizon features various note bending techniques developed by Lauren to evoke the feelings of floating beyond the atmosphere. Celestial Spirals features a buzzing sound from having a paperclip resting at the base of just one string to create an alternative sound world which underlines the spirals that flow through the piece before coming back to it’s original starting point.
Here on this page, Lauren demonstrates the various techniques and shows how they can be achieved on different types of harps.
A run through of all the different effects in Beyond the Horizon.
A run through of all the special effects during first 4 measures of Celestial Spirals.
Using the paperclip in Celestial Spirals.
Playing the different effects in context within Celestial Spirals.
Demonstrating the different effects in Beyond the Horizon on a heavy gauge string lever harp.
Demonstrating the different effects in Beyond the Horizon on a concert harp.
Beyond the Horizon and Celestial Spirals is now published as sheet music and available HERE
I hope you enjoy learning the music and if you post any performances online of my music please tag me in as I would love to see them!
I am very humbled that several of my compositions have been selected onto the new AMEB harp syllabus. My thanks go to Alice Giles who oversaw the selection of the new harp syllabus for the Australian Music Examinations Board and to the harpists I have met in West Australia who have been so supportive.
The pieces that have been selected are:
Gypsy Dance - (Certificate of Performance Lever Harp) AMEB 2021
Lapkon's Spinning Wheel - (Grade 7) on AMEB Harp Syllabus 2021
Caribbean Daydreams - (Grade 5) on AMEB Harp Syllabus 2021
Habanera Caprichosa - (Grade 8) on AMEB Harp Syllabus 2021
I was hoping to travel to my birth country last year but covid had other ideas, and it seems that a return to Australia will of course be some way off now. So to celebrate Habanera Caprichosa being selected as a Grade 8 AMEB piece I have created an on demand video tutorial.
International travel seems a long distance memory now post covid, but I continue to hope that I will get a chance to return to Australia soon!
Harp Habanera online course is available HERE
I am extremely grateful to be a recipient of the 'Developing Your Creative Practice' award from Arts Council England. I will be spending 2021 undertaking a year long period improving my compositional skills, and will also be Composer in Residence with Harps North West during this time. I'll be writing harps North West three new works for harp ensemble and I've also mapped out a years worth of compositional self-study which I'm really looking forward to diving into.
Again, I cannot begin to express enough my gratitude to Arts Council England for this support when I am acutely aware of how much of a struggle it is right now for everyone in the Arts. There is another round of grant applications about to open, so I would encourage all creatives to go online and apply. This grant will not only be allowing me to further my compositional skills, but also gives 2021 a much needed overall structure, which in the absence of freelance gigs is extremely welcome.
I'll also be in the studio soon finishing off recording my second album which will be released by Avie Records in Autumn 2021. It will include six of my compositions, including 3 harp quartets that I wrote at the beginning of 2020 commissioned by PRS Foundation 'Women Make Music' and my harp duo, 'Sea of Stars' for lever harp & pedal harp. I'm very grateful to the wonderful harpists Eleanor Turner, Alexander Rider and Elizabeth Bass for joining me and recording my music.
I've only recently embarked on a creative compositional journey having started writing music in 2018, so this all seems a bit of a whirlwind! But I am very grateful for everyones support and I hope to be scribbling lots more dots throughout 2021.
LINK for more about Lauren's music HERE
I'm absolutely thrilled that my composition Elegy has been selected as one of Harp Columns 30 day practice challenges as a DREAM BIG Original solo for lever harp.
In this blog post I have created a series of mini tutorials which I hope will be a useful aid for anyone taking on the challenge of learning Elegy as part of the Harp Column practice challenge.
Here is the audio of Elegy and the PDF of the sheet music can be downloaded from Harp Column HERE
Elegy breaks down into 7 sections and I have created a mini tutorial covering each section of the piece.
This first video is an over view on creating the VIBRATO effect which occurs throughout the piece
1st section - m.1-16
2nd section - m.17-24
3rd section - m. 25-36
4th section - m.37-40
5th section - m. 41-48
6th section - m.49-56
7th section - m. 57-end
I hope these are helpful, and thank you so much for learning my music. If you post any videos on social media please tag me in as I would love to see them! x
I was recently asked by my friends at the Macclesfield Music Centre to provide a short video introduction to the harp suitable for school age children. So here is my offering which is by way of a bit of Nutcracker, Dr Who, Havana and my best BBC posh speaking voice.
I recorded it in one take, and I was very conscious at the time to speak clearly and slowly. The resulting posh teaching / announcing voice I use throughout it is hilarious and not how I normally speak. It's less than 5 minutes long and I demonstrate on pedal harp as well as lever harp.
Delighted to be kick starting this years Online Advent Calendar for Scala Radio playing Silent Night arranged by Marcel Grandjany
In this very short video I demonstrate how to play an effect which I've developed and use in my piece Celestial Spirals. I've called them xylo-harmonics, but essentially they are false harmonics, and it's a handy technique to have 'up your sleeve' if you ever have a problematic string which has a stubborn harmonic and you want to produce a pure harmonic sound.
Here, you can see how they are used in context in the opening and closing sections of Celestial Spirals.
I find you can also have more control over dynamics using this effect than you can with harmonics.
I recently did a short live session and interview with Dave Graham who runs the Piano Cafe in Oakham. Its a very short interview where I briefly explain how I got into composing (in lieu of a mid-life crises) and how teaching now is so much better than it was in the 1980's!!
It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly 10 years since Alison Stephens died. She was the leading exponent of the classical mandolin in the UK, working at one time or another with most of the country's major orchestras, but she also did much to popularise the instrument too, through contributions to popular films (most notably Captain Corelli's Mandolin), live performances, teaching and composing.
I wrote an obituary about her for The Guardian at the time and it seems appropriate to share it again here as it lists her extraordinary career and achievements.
Ali was a grafter and everything she achieved was from sheer hard work. Whatever life threw at her, (and boy she didn’t have it easy) she tackled with grace and determination. She was passionate about music and life and always put her full energy into everything.
As well as a colleague, Ali was a good friend and 10 years on, she is still fondly remembered and much missed by all who knew and worked with her.
Alison Stephens back catalogue https://open.spotify.com/artist/4o9Jpn6cctDuD93hUYpPQH
I wasn't sure whether to post this video or not... but since it's now in Hansard and a matter of public records...
I wrote to my local MP, Fiona Bruce about my situation during the pandemic (as a freelance self-employed musician), and was extremely surprised that she read it out (nearly in full!) in the House of Commons. Fiona is an excellent local MP and has been very supportive of the arts in Cheshire.
My personal situation is no different to any other freelance self-employed musician.
I always try to have fresh flowers in my online teaching zone. Mostly it's so my ZOOM students have something nice to look at, but to be honest they are there to make it cheerful for me. As much as I love my students (I really do), and I am so grateful for the many online harp connections I have, as our post Covid life stretches out it depresses me more and more that I can't sit amongst a large group of musicians and play orchestral music. As a freelance musician the chance of any extra harp work with orchestras seems a very long way off.
I really miss playing in orchestras.
The sound of an orchestra is completely f**king awesome. To sit behind the violins and have brass and percussion playing behind you and woodwind to the side of you and play Strauss or Berlioz or Mahler.
Looking at fresh flowers every day helps me mitigate that loss of 25 years of regularly playing harp in symphony and chamber orchestras.
I find playing my pedal harp just too depressing these days. Onwards and upwards instead with a focus on lever harp and composition which is a new separate harp journey for me.
After months of sporadic online playing to be able to pack my harp up, get it into my car, drive to a venue and play music to other people in REAL LIFE at a wedding today was a much needed tonic.
Over the past 25 years I've played at the grandest to the most intimate of weddings, and yet today's was the most special. Streamed over the internet to friends and family who couldn't be there, the masked guests were witness to an event which will be remembered for many years to come.
Most weddings which had been years in the planning with huge guest lists and an array of wedding suppliers have all been postponed until 2021.
The few couples who have managed to get married in 2020 will be in a very exclusive club.
In years to come they can look back and wonder how on earth they ever managed the logistics of a wedding during a global pandemic. It will be a badge of honour that everyone who has got married this year can wear with pride.
I've just finished editing a new piece for solo harp by my husband, Andy Scott.
It's his version of the traditional tune, The Wayfaring Stranger and its quite an epic version!
Andy Scott arranged The Wayfaring Stranger for the 'Ever Open Door' CD collaboration with John Helliwell (Supertramp) which is being released October 2020 (Challenge Records). Originally scored for clarinet, string quartet and hammond organ, it takes a harmonic journey with twists and turns through many keys; fairly chromatic at times, simple and open at other times.
I absolutely loved his version for John Helliwell, so I asked Andy if I could have a go at adapting it for solo harp; and here it is!
Because of the chromaticism, it is for the advanced standard player and I have fully marked the part with pedalling and damping. It's a great solo harp companion piece to with Andy's other pieces for harp, like his flute and harp sonata and other solo piece, Crossing Waves.
It's published and available as a PDF download and hard copy from Astute Music HERE
Welcome to the new normal - hopefully you'll have found yours by now.
It's taken me a little while to find my new normal and like everyone else, I have good days and bad days. Good days include keeping to a routine and keeping myself busy.
Highlights for me are the Virtual Ceilidhs that I host every Sunday evening online. It's a lovely gathering of professional and non-professional harpists on a very low pressure basis - join a session as and when you want to - and we all play one short piece. It's a lovely way to connect by listening and sharing music with each other.
I continue to be so grateful during this lockdown that I live in a house with a garden and that we are coming into warmer weather in the UK. With four adults in my house, and no dedicated private harp room it is great to be able to retreat to my shed to play my lever harp.
We are now well into the COVID-19 worldwide lockdown and everything has changed for everyone.
On a personal level, like every other self-employed freelance musician I find myself without any income. But so has everyone else who is self-employed.
I was due to play at the World Harp Congress later this year, then various concerts in Australia, stop over in Hong Kong on the way back home. Tour with the RLPO in Japan and South Korea... but it seems all quite meaningless to have lost gigs, when one of my relatives partners mum is currently extremely ill with COVID-19 and it looks like she won't make it.
Health is more important every time. And we will all get through this. Together.
I'm extremely lucky that I have a house with a garden, and with a house full and no private music room I've re-fashioned my garden shed into a little harp hut so I can have some privacy. I am very grateful to have this space as I know so many must be really suffering during this lock down in crowded and unsafe relationships.
It's difficult to make sense of it all, but it's interesting that after 1 week into a nationwide lock down, that the emotions have so quickly gone from shock, upset to resignation and acceptance. Amongst all that is the comfort to be drawn from absorbing yourself in something that you are passionate about. In my case, music and playing the harp.
So with that in mind, here is the first of my Lock Down Shed sessions...
I always put total commitment and energy into every harp project I do, but I don't always get paid! Any support you can give is very much appreciated.
Lauren Scott is a harpist & composer and has been blogging on Harpyness for over 10 years.
If you enjoy reading Harpyness and you'd like to buy me a virtual coffee that would be very welcome. Cheers!