While going through the first sketches for my harp and computer piece with the harpist yesterday I started thinking about the relation between the compositional and general idea of the music taking shape and its relation to the limits of the instrument. The character and the material of this particular composition is governed by a very short six note motive (C-D-Eb-Db-B-C). This motive was obviously not written with the instrument in mind since this particular sucession of notes cannot be played without pedal changes.
It can be argued that it is not possible, or at least difficult, to write idiomatic music for harp with this motive. However, I find it insteresting to look at it this issue as a process of negotiation between the musical or artistic intention on the one hand, and the ease of play on the other. This isn’t a static matter. A passage that is to come out has calm and confident will be likely to sound better if written in a range and style that is easy to play while a relatively erratic and nervous passage may actually sound really good if written less idiomatically.
The idea for this piece is to display the character of three different “personalities” in a sort of discussion and let these three characters undergo a transformation in the course of the piece. These personalities are stereotypes and can be seen as three sides of one person or as three different persona. In either case the point is to make audible the “other side” of a typical character. There is the confident, the nervous and insecure, and the shy.
As an example, the confident gestalt is gradually transforming and becoming increasingly uncertain. This can be done in a very subtle way by letting the writing becoming less and less idiomatic requiring more strain from the performer. For it to become clear I will have to combine this with other expressional means as well but the point is that I can make exceptions from the “rules’ of the material and the system (i.e. changing notes in the original notes) in order to make the music more idiomatic when the music needs to be effortlessly played while at other instants I can allow myself to stay closer to the system even if this means the score becomes very difficult to play.