This blog is one of a series. Each includes one of the students’ final projects from my online course “Blues: Harp-Style” along with  their answers to five questions I asked them to answer. You can like me, is highly theatrical – but she also has some really cool wigs and costumes at her house … which she and her husband are building from scratch … somewhere in Australia.  Blythe says this piece was inspired by a cartoon about harps and heaven.

When other students saw her video they asked Blythe for the sheet music of it, so if you want to see her Final Project and download the sheet music for it, link here: or …

Watch & Comment at YouTube

Blythe’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

Each week, we were given a tool or technique to work with, and this very much directed my ‘creations’.  I wanted to be able to demonstrate that I understood the concepts, but I also wanted to use them in a way which felt comfortable for me.  Each week, I would play with the new ‘tools’ and gradually ideas would form from that.  Sometimes musical ideas would sound ‘sad’ to me or ‘cheeky’, and I would go from there.  I suppose that could be restrictive and it would be a good exercise to NOT go with the initial feeling, but with 1 week deadlines, this worked well for me.

What I REALLY wanted each week was to create a COMPLETELY different-sounding/looking piece.  By taking this approach, I missed out on delving deeper into blues, but it was a great exercise and I really enjoyed it.  And now that the course is finished, I hope to continue BOTH directions: to delve more deeply into blues, and also to continue to explore different sounds and genres.

–  What freedoms and blocks in yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

There weren’t a lot of blocks, except the usual mild ‘writer’s blocks’. One possible block was that my direction wasn’t always blues-related!  Sometimes, I wanted to take the information and use it in a non-bluesy way.  Luckily, Deborah was very supportive of this.

Something I was really excited to play around with was singing while accompanying myself with ‘unusual’ (for me!) rhythms.  It is like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach!  It is going to take a lot of practice to be really comfortable with it, and as per usual, I perceive my technical level to be a bit of a block.  BUT AT THE SAME TIME, I was interested to see how my musical arrangements formed around these limitations, and it made me wonder how many composers write pieces because THEY COULDN’T DO WHAT THEY WANTED TO DO, rather than always composing exactly as planned.  In some ways, my technical limitations helped to give me structure, so by the end, I ALMOST saw it as a freedom.  Yay!  I evolved!

A FREEDOM that is so unique to studying with Deborah is that technique is not the main focus; it is understood that this will improve with practice.  I felt that I had a safe forum in which to experiment and demonstrate possibility and potential, rather than being hung up over current limitations.

– What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?

As stated above, my technical ability curbed some of my wilder ideas.  AND, to be honest, I find my desire to NOT be TYPECAST both a wonderful freedom as well as a challenge.  It is a challenge to work out a target audience when my interests are so varied.  My interest in burlesque would shock one kind of audience, my love for solemn sacred music would bore another audience.  It is a bit tricky!

Another challenge was that I did sometimes find that I wanted a particular ‘feel’ for the music, but the music seemed to want something else!

–  What were your personal “Ahas”?

Musically- recognising that not only is it OK, it is GOOD to be able to create ‘space’ in music…I have only JUST started to understand that this is something I should try to do!  I look forward to exploring this.

Instrumentally- realising that the harp is just a vehicle for expression.  It doesn’t have to be ‘harp-like’ or angelic or virtuosic.  It doesn’t have to BE anything.  It is supposed to HELP me express myself, not feel like a hindrance.

Personally- not everyone is going to like my style, especially if they have no taste whatsoever ha ha.  But who am I doing this FOR anyway??  What would I like to see/listen to?  If I do that, surely it will be a good direction for me.   I am sure this will be an ongoing ‘a-ha’.

– Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?

I hope you enjoy them!  They are a BEGINNING, and I hope to re-do some of them as the musical concepts sink in better.  This course has been SO EXCITING for me.  I have never written a song in my life, and now I have started!  In fact, encouraged by some fellow students who expressed interest in it, my original song You Can’t Get Into Heaven If You Don’t Play the Harp is now available as downloadable sheet music!!!!!  Yay!  Very, very exciting for me.  And lastly, thank you to Deborah Henson-Conant for being one of the most extraordinary people I have ever come across.  If you get the chance, DO ONE OF HER COURSES!!!  They are the best learning experiences I have ever had with harp and with music in general.

p.s. (from DHC) If I get a chance, I’ll embed some of Blythe’s other homework videos, just to give you a sense of how much fun it is to have her in the course!

The next “Blues: Harp-Style” course begins July 29th and runs through the end of August 2013.

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