This blog is one of a series. Each includes a student’s final projects from my online course “Hip Harp Toolkit,” along with their answers to five questions. You can learn more about these final projects – and why they’re called “Beginning Projects” here. – Learn more about the course here: HipHarpToolkit.com – Learn about my NEXT course here: Blues Harp-Style – Get on the “First to Know” list for all courses here: First-to-Know-List
Alexandra answers questions about this project:
1. What did it take for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally?
The first day I worked on this I spent about 5 hours trying to make a medley out of 3 melodies I had composed. I just couldn’t seem to make them work together, so I decided to go with Christmas tunes, and spent 3 hours on this, becoming very frustrated, tired, in a foul mood, and feeling I had nothing to show for it.
But the next morning, I found I had started something I liked. I had this happen 2 other times, where I overworked to the point of exhaustion and irritability, but found the next day that I had made progress.
After these long slogs I find that my ears stop “hearing”, and can’t discern what is working. The medley was constantly developing, and was never done. I was making decisions as to what notes, fine-tuning those notes (yes, a pun), editing, and more editing, as well as adding new ideas up to the last day. The support of others in the group was heartening, and kept me at it. I experienced continual doubts, interspersed with intense periods of engagement.The support of others in the group was heartening, and kept me at it. Click To Tweet
2. What freedoms and blocks did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?
I struggled with perfection; questioned every note: too many, too little, not enough tonal interest, too muddy, too dissonant. I loved certain phrases and then had trouble removing them if they didn’t seem to fit. I was worried about losing material that I would later want back. Fussing over notes (eg. in a turn) that probably made no great difference to the whole.
3. What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?
I spent the whole day trying to get a recording I liked, and then saw the time was a bit over, and cut the video, and thought about how I should have cut the repeats in the music. For this exercise cutting the medley down made sense, but to do justice to the music, shortening it sounded wrong to my ear.
As I recorded, I should have listened along the way, but I kept feeling that I was getting closer to what I wanted, so I just kept recording, hoping to be done. I also should have spent time visualizing how I wanted to play it.
I decided on an austere, spare background, instead of a decorated, more typically Christmas setting. Then I questioned this setting after I’d spent the day trying to record.
When my ideas were new, I related better to them; as I practiced them, they lost their freshness (It sounded better when it was half-baked).
The sound was not so good on the recording; might have been the room or the placement of the iPad. A day of recording incomplete perfection; and I flinch even attaching the term perfection to what I did, but realize that is part of what I have to learn and assimilate.
And now, the rest of the story: I woke up this morning utterly exhausted, and cut some of the repeats, practiced lightly the changes and the challenges, and re-recorded. It took about 45 minutes, but I feel better. I addressed the time limits, changed a chord, and took my time, as I wasn’t as rushed trying to fit the medley into the time limit.
4. What were your personal “Ahas”?
Don’t toil for hours and hours. Force yourself to stop and walk away ... Listen critically, but don't doubt yourself; trust your ear. Click To Tweet
5. Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?
I have learned so much in the second round of this course. And I learned just as much the first time around.I have learned so much in the 2nd round of this course. AND I learned just as much the first time around. Click To Tweet
DHC’s RESPONSE TO THE VIDEO:
Before even listening: I LOVE the setting – love the shift in visual from foreground human to the image of a human in glass, to simple glass, to trees outside glass. I love the 4 levels, and I loved hearing that sense of levels interacting in the music – the dissonance an connection between them.
As always I love the sense of breath and poetry in your phrasing.
Wow – LOVE the simple transition to the second tune – and the harmony – how there are almost different pools of harmony at the same time – this was the section that really highlighted how the visual and the musical are reflecting each other.
I love the repeated use of 2nds throughout the whole trilogy – and how they add an aching sense of emotion within the tunes and are used in different ways during the transitions … and I loved that the final, graceful conclusion was a beautiful 2nd that felt so resolved, like a journey coming home.
What a beautiful, simple, compelling medley. Thank you, Alexandra!!!
What was this project all about? What were the Guidelines? The project description was to take 3 contrasting tunes and create a medley no more than 3.5 minutes using techniques from the course, like introductions, melodic improvising, embellishing, turnaround endings and modulating from key to key. (If you’re not a musician, you’ll know when they’re modulating when you see them reach up to shift the levers, which change the harp into a new key).
One of the core principles of the course is “Imperfect Completion” so each of the “Final Projects” is really a “Beginning Project.”
YOU can join my next creative harp course:
My next online course for harpists begins January 14, and it’s called Blues Harp-Style. Take a look at the Blues Harp-Style info page here or get on my “First To Know” list for notification of early-bird specials and new classes.