In the category of ‘You did WHAT????” I right?
Well, it all started when I went out for a run.
Actually, it all started decades ago when I was a very little girl, listening to my mother play Beethoven’s “Für Elise” – the only piece she could play – on the piano. I loved it.
So years ago I arranged it for harp. But I never actually learned to play my own arrangement. ‘Til a few weeks ago.
And on Sunday night, halfway up the bike path in my running shorts and reflector vest – I turned around, ran back to my studio and started playing it … and videotaping it.
Two hours later, I posted a video of the song on YouTube along with a link to the download version of the sheet music.
So, here’s the thing about this piece … it’s got this one section where …
But, wait – let me first tell you what I love about the song.
I love how it’s got this simple, pretty melody — but then these sections that go away from the melody. It’s like someone’s thinking about another person, and goes off on these tangents – sometimes lyrical, sometimes passionate — and then always comes back to the same thought, but each time it feels like a little coming home.
When I heard this piece as a kid – and I remember watching my mom play it when I was 3 or 4 – it was the first time I experienced music as a journey. The sense of ‘home’ – of ‘familiar’ – the sense of ‘leaving for a new place’ and the sense of transition.
But one thing always really bugged me about the piece.
The final transition – the last time Beethoven comes back to the melody, he uses a melodic device called a “Chromatic Run.” It’s a special kind of scale that – even as a kid – just seemed out of place. Like a cop-out. Like he couldn’t think of anything else to do.
(Beethoven scholars, go ahead, call me out on this. I’m just telling you what one kid thought listening to her mother play Beethoven.)
For non-musicians, a chromatic run is … well, on the piano it’s playing a series of notes, all headed in one direction, and using each consecutive note – both white and black keys. You could go play one right now yourself if you had a piano handy – even if you’d never played a note before.
Chromatic runs are pretty simple on most instruments – but not the harp.
The harp is set up on an ingenious system where the instrument actually shifts physically from key to key, which is why even beginners can learn very simple music on the harp and sound beautiful almost instantly.
But as soon as you start shifting between keys you need bigtime coordination. A “chromatic” scale, runs swiftly ‘between’ EVERY key.
So chromatic scales definitely aren’t a harp ‘thing.’
That doesn’t mean brilliant technical harpists can’t play them – its just not a graceful thing for the harp.
So this long chromatic run into the final melody of “Für Elise” stymied me for years. First, it bothered me as a compositional device. And then it bothered me because it was just a pain to try to play.
So anyway, I .. ahem … cough … well, I rewrote it.
Yes! I admit it! I rewrote Beethoven!!!
And you can rewrite my music when I’m dead, too, if that makes it play more gracefully on your instrument.
So if you play the pedal harp — I want you to buy this download and play the music – and then videotape it and put it on YouTube, and send me a link of your performance so I can enjoy watching you play it.
Because watching people play the music I compose and arrange is one of my greatest pleasures! Especially because it’s so freakin’ hard to write out harp music.
And especially when Beethoven’s looking over your shoulder.