DHC’s State o’ Zen Experiments

Last weekend my hard drive crashed.  The holidays zoomed up with a vengeance.  I realized I was way stressed out.

So instead of ‘practicing’ my harp, I just sat down and played.  Slowly, no agenda, nothing to prove – I just started playing.  And I could feel the stress slide off the inside of my chest.

I started wondering if other people would have the same reaction if I just sat down and played and recorded – not an album, not a ‘song,’ but just playing to play – opening a small window into a musical moment that’s meant to mean nothing but just being there.

And I figured this was as good a time as any to try that experiment. And to share it with you.

Must admit it kind of stressed me out to think of sharing it … and I looked tense but, as I tell the performers I coach:   embrace imperfect completion. Just make the connection. Get it it of you. Share it … and then just do it again.

So let the experiment begin!  And let it begin here in this blog where I’ve posted the first of the “DHC State ‘o Zen” recordings below – a little window into a musical moment that’s only what it is and nothing more.

And if this window helps zen your state, why that’s a lovely thing.

And for all you folks in the U S of A:  Happy Thanksgiving!  May your holiday be stressless and joyful.

DHC (Thanksgiving Eve 2014 / 11-26-14)

State o’ Zen #1

Wed. Nov. 26 at 12:30 pm

(This is posted on Vimeo)

State o’ Zen #2

Wed. Nov. 26 at 4:02 pm
(I posted this one on YouTube … interesting that it’s smaller)

State o’ Zen #3

Wed. Nov. 26 at 4:16 pm

And now …. I’m hungry …

State o’ Zen #4

Wed. Nov. 26 at 7:20 pm

State o’ Zen #5

Wed. Nov. 26 at 8:12 pm

Beginning to wonder at what point I would repeat ideas – or have I already. How many ideas do I have.

Decided to set another tuning and see what it brings up.  My harp’s tuned in Ab normally.  I raised Cs, Bs and Gs and then played with an anchor on the Ab string.  But I wanted some kind of contrast – a place to go away to so I could come back.

I tried the Db, then lowered the G levers and had what I wanted – a sense of a different place.

Noticed I liked something about the first figure – the amorphous sense of movement. Thought: no, this is no way a ‘melody’ but it is a place to return to.

So now I am not playing completely without agenda.  At the moment I am playing with ideas.  The first is a tuning, an anchor note of Ab, and an amorphous, open-sounding shift of not-really-shifting harmony, built of open shifting 4ths.

The second is a shift of tone, lowering the Gs to G naturals — and a different configuration of strings – in this they’re piled in 3rds instead of open 4ths-5ths.

And then back to the first idea.

Also notice I’m looking a little more tense.  Was it the chips I ate?  Or the obligations I’m avoiding?  Or am I now trying too hard to make these ‘interesting’?

State o’ Zen #6

Thu. Nov. 27 at 12:58 AM

I decided to try one more before bed, and to go back to the idea I was working on earlier, but I was too lazy to open up the blog again and see how I’d set my levers. This time I just raised the C’s and G’s. I began with the same idea as #5, but then I experimented with bending the bassnotes into the harmonies I wanted, lowering the G levers because I liked the dissonance and floating into a watery section, glissing over the strings with my right hand and playing harmonics with my left,

That’s an old trick, but I still like it.

I stumbled on a lever change and thought about it for awhile. Does a clear stumble invalidate a piece? Can we get beyond it? What do we think invalidates art or expression and what doesn’t? Is it awkwardness?  But I love awkwardness at times.   So is it awkwardness in the midst of what I think is grace? But why do I decide one thing is graceful and one awkward?  Is it only because I think I can hide behind one, the way my cat thinks she’s hiding in a small fold of the rug?  And hide what? My fallibility? What am I afraid of losing in the eyes of other people?

It’s time for bed.

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Lively Arts presents Deborah Henson-Conant at IUP

IUP-2014-DHC-Holiday-tourpageThursday, December 4, 2014  Deborah Henson-Conant brings her Hip HARP show to Indiana University in Pennsylvania.

Deborah Henson-Conant is a Grammy-nominated artist and the world’s premier electric harpist. She is known for high energy shows that fuse music, theater, and her evocative singing voice.  The show will feature a program of ballads, blues, holiday music and collaboration with the IUP Jazz Ensemble and PSO harpist Lucy Scandrett. This is a feel-good, outside-the-box, bring-the-folks-you-love kind of show.

See details below and help us spread the word!


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Basic “Who, What, When & Where”

  • WHO: Deborah Henson-Conant
  • WHAT: Hip Harp at IUP! - Electric Harp, Vocals & Humor and collaboration with the IUP Jazz Ensemble and PSO harpist Lucy Scandrett
  • WHEN: Thu. December 4, 2014 at 8PM
  • WHERE: IUP Performing Arts Center, Fisher Auditorium, 403 South Eleventh Street, Indiana, PA 15705
  • INFO & TIX: http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=175216

About the “Ovations!” Series presented by Lively Arts

The Ovations! series is funded, in part, by donations through the Premiere Club, business sponsorships, grants, and the IUP Student Cooperative Association. The Lively Arts, a program of the College of Fine Arts, presents nearly 200 performances, programs, and exhibits annually.


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  2. See and share more images (below)
  3. Buy Tickets NOW! http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=175216

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@HipHarpist LIVE @iuplivelyarts!  Dec. 4 – show! Details & TIX: http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=175216 #HarpsRock #DHClive

@HipHarpist – Dec. 4 show at IUP with Jazz Ensemble & PSO Harpist @iuplivelyarts! More info http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=175216

Are you going to see @HipHarpist’s at IUP on Dec. 4? http://www.iup.edu/page.aspx?id=175216 #DHClive #Harpsrock @iuplivelyarts


Press Release
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Please run now through December 2, 2014

Hip Harp at IUP!

Up next for its Ovations! series, the Lively Arts at Indiana University of Pennsylvania presents a return visit from Grammy-nominated electric jazz harpist, Deborah Henson-Conant.  This one-night event will be held on December 4, 2014, at 8:00PM at Fisher Auditorium in IUP’s Performing Arts Center.

For her return engagement, which helps celebrate 25 years of the Lively Arts, Henson-Conant will be joined by the IUP Jazz Ensemble for a few numbers as well as harpist, Lucy Scandrett, who is an active performer with numerous Western Pennsylvania professional ensembles and an adjunct professor at IUP.  The concert, appropriate for all ages, will also include several tunes celebrating the holiday season.

Henson-Conant is known for her high energy shows with ensembles and as a soloist, her evocative singing voice, her connection with the audience, and her high-energy fusion of music and theater.  In addition, she revolutionized the contemporary music scene by transforming the classical concert harp into a “Street Harp” —a powerful, fully electric instrument, a seventh of the size of a concert harp.  Her playing ranges from full-out blues, to rock, to jazz, to heart wrenching ballad.

Henson-Conant’s voice has been compared to Carly Simon and Joan Baez; her playing to Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix; and her humor to musical comedian Victor Borge. Using a “looper-pedal” to layer sounds from her harp in real time, then weaving solo lines and vocals above it, her shows are tied together by powerful, funny, affirming stories, and universal humor.

Henson-Conant debuted with the Boston Pops; opened for Ray Charles at Tanglewood; jammed onstage with Bobby McFerrin, Doc Severinsen, and Marvin Hamlish; and offstage with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler.  She’s been featured on CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” NBC’s “Today Show,” and NPR’s “Weekend Edition.”

Her signature instrument, the “DHC Blue-Light” was built and named for her. It weighs 11 lbs, has 32 strings and is made of carbon fibre.  Created for her by the CAMAC Harp Company in France, it is now one of the fastest-selling new harp models in the world.

Tickets for this December 4th performance are available now online at IUPTickets.com or iup.edu/livelyarts.  They can also be purchased at the Hadley Union Building ticket office on the IUP campus or by calling the HUB ticket office at (724) 357-1313.  Any seats remaining will be sold at the door starting one hour prior to the performance.  Tickets are priced at $26 for regular admission, $22 for seniors and groups, and $14 for students and children.

For more information on this and other events within the Lively Arts by calling (724) 357-2787 (ARTS).

The Ovations! series is funded, in part, by donations through the Premiere Club, business sponsorships, grants, and the IUP Student Cooperative Association. The Lively Arts, a program of the College of Fine Arts, presents nearly 200 performances, programs, and exhibits annually.
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More images to share

Deborah Henson-Conant at the Circle of Friends Coffeehouse May 12, 2012 DHenson-Conant_Black Dress_HR

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