With influences as diverse as Steve Reich, Alan Hovhaness, Philip Glass, Brian Eno, Ludovico Einaudi, Bach, film scores, World Music and Impressionism, it is difficult to label this music. At times seriously minimalist, at others unabashedly Romantic, folksy, ambient or even new-age, the one thread tying everything together is the harp. But is this an album of harp music? Decidedly not! It is more about musical pattern, colour, texture, story-telling and atmosphere....with a harp or two or five!
Seven Crows a Secret for solo harp takes its name from a mysterious old children's rhyme in which seven crows foretell "a secret never to be told". Features solo harp (and a couple of cooperative crows!).
Latin rhythm meets Bach in Tango Barroco for harp and Roland C-80 digital harpsichord. This instrument is featured in two pieces in this collection, and a versatile little workhorse it is, too! Michael Ethier is at the keyboard.
Tinkly "glass harp" (recorded live) gives Spiral Dance some of its ethereal quality. It slowly swings along with multiple layered harp parts. [A glass harp is produced by rubbing a moistened finger around the rim of a wineglass partially filled with water. The amount of water in the glass dictates the pitch of the resulting eerie sound. The children of the Country Airs Harp Camp helped out with this!]
The title track, strata, is a fabric of patterns and revealed melodies arising from the layering of five separate harp parts.
Okavango Elephant Walk is a soundscape tribute to the animals of the Okavango Delta, Botswana.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, clockwork automata were all the rage. These were basically life-sized wind-up "toys" that could do all kinds of things, including play musical instruments! Clockwork is about a tinny mechanical harp orchestra that slowly goes slightly awry.
A print by Kawase Hasui gave me the idea for Saishoin Temple in Snow, evocative and sparse in the extreme.
Romantic and unapologetically emotional, Bachskinder uses a gloss for solo harp that I wrote years ago, based on one of the master's unaccompanied cello suites. Here it is given a fuller interpretation as a kind of elegy for Bach's twenty children, only half of whom survived infancy.
Mandala for harp and Roland C-80 weaves circular webs of patterned and textured sound. Michael is again at the keyboard.
My interest in ancient history inspired Two Ancient Dances. A threnos was an ancient Greek funerary dance, very solemn and stately. Dance for Tigi-harp seeks to evoke a very interesting instrument from ancient Mesopotamia. Consisting of a drum-shaped body strung like a harp, the tigi was also rimmed with little bells that sounded in rhythm with each pluck of a string.
Silver Apples of the Moon, Golden Apples of the Sun was inspired by the poem "Song of Wandering Aengus" by W.B. Yeats. In it, the fates of a mortal man and a faerie woman (represented by two separate musical motifs) are intertwined. Solo harp is featured.
Three little sound pictures make up Nightscapes. In the first, Night Train, the many interesting effects of which the harp is capable are used to mimic the sounds of a train passing, night birds and other creatures. Moonrise over Water is an Impressionist miniature. Cancion de la Noche (Song of the Night) is a little snapshot of a street festival under the stars.
The final piece in this collection, Postludium Perpetuum, is a happy little bit of perpetual motion to say "adieu" but not "goodbye".