The first graduating class of my “Blues: Harp-Style” course completed their final projects earlier this month. You can so I hadn’t seen any of her work until she signed up for the final project — and I was blown away by her voice and how she effortlessly accompanied her original Blues on harp.
Angela’s Answers to my Five Questions:
– Give a short description of what it took for you to get to the place of being able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.
It would take me pages to describe this, so I’ll give you a couple of details and leave it to your imagination. The blue-collar city where I live is home to 13,000 people; two of us are practicing musicians. Everything in my song has actually happened, although I took a teensy bit of poetic license where necessary. For example, I had to bleach the second verse (about a soup kitchen) to make it fit – the incident I had in mind involved a pregnant woman. She took a piece of pie with her meal but was overcome with morning sickness before she could eat it; when she came up to throw it away, she completely abased herself apologizing for the wasted food, and then the head of the kitchen ripped into her.
– What freedoms and blocks in yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?
I’ve never been able to write music; there are too many choices and I can’t figure out where to start. I found that the rhythmic/harmonic structure of the blues created a field I could play on. For the very first time, I actually managed to write a song. The process was liberating, and so much fun!
– What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?
I’m very buttoned-up. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with that, and I’m not interested in “fixing” it, but the blues demands a performance style that is much looser than what I’m used to. My first round of recording was much too stiff, so I scrubbed out the beauty and elegance I associate with my harp, got as dirty as I could — tangled hair, bare face, dirty teeth, and stained clothes — and went out into the ugliness to record for a couple of hours (the logistically feasible ugliness being the abandoned house next door). It did the trick, and I’m quite happy with the distance I managed to travel in just a couple of weeks!
– What were your personal “Aha’s”?
I can play something “cool”! I’m a classically trained musician, but I live in a place where the only music is, as I state in my song, strummed guitar and drum sets. I fight for the cause of music and music education that expands these extremely limiting boundaries, but the battle is uphill, and I’ve fielded some very personal attacks. Playing the blues allows me to rest for a moment and fit in without betraying my ideals, because even though blues is one of the styles that’s expected around here – it’s certainly not what’s expected from a harp!
– Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?
Hm…. “1. Take this class. 2. Thank you to my husband Jeremy, who cheerfully agrees to a smaller lifestyle so that I can work as a musician.”
The next “Blues: Harp-Style” course begins July 29th and runs through the end of August 2013.