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Mechanical Music Machine- Felix Thorn

Yesterday we discovered that the addition of an M-Audio Fast Track USB interface makes recording the harps directly into my laptop alarmingly simple. It appears that Fast Tracks are marketed primarily to guitarists (basement wizards, patio maestros, etc) but work just fine as entry level audio/MIDI tools for any number of other instruments.  I don’t want to understand how the interface business works because music geekdom is extremely enticing and I can totally see falling down that particular rabbit hole. Yet another procrastination activity… 

So there I am tangled up in guitar cords (borrowed from patient musician husband) playing around with Audacity when the power shimmers off and on, the harps start to shake and I realize that, yet again, CA is flirting with the big one.  Rather than do what you’re supposed to like dive and tuck under something sturdy I stood in the middle of the music room with an arm over each harp watching everything around me sway and slide.  Of course the harps are fully insured (thank you Anderson Group) but nothing would make me sadder than losing them at this stage of the game. 

Sidebar– I’ve been through a couple of temblors (Nicaragua and Costa Rica) as well as 5 fires including one where we evacuated the orthopedic floor of an Ohio hospital (all those traction beds) and another in CA (Witch Creek).  For that one we crammed a 5 foot iguana, 2 turtles, 2 cats and about 30 paintings into a Honda CRV for mandatory evacuation and ended up camping out in my clinic office for a week.  Even though I think we’re pretty good at natural disaster yesterday’s 7.2 quake in Baja was scary.

All in all a very humbling weekend.  Had to hear a recording of myself for the first time fumbling along a well-known song (yikes cubed) and, in the big picture, bumped up against yet another reminder of how fragile we really are perched above the ocean admiring nature from the (illusory) safety of a solid home.  If it’s time to tumble down the hill into the sea clutching harps so be it BUT if that’s the case I sure hope my laptop doesn’t survive.  Do not want my musical legacy to be a fledgling version of First Arabesque played against a click track.

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Recently Hugo Chavez started a radio show that is introduced by some kind of harp flourish after which he launches into variations on a theme of beneficent cuckoodom.  Accompanying the article is this photograph showing Chavez with a harp that would be an unremarkable piece of self promotion except that the harp is backward.  Which got me to thinking about how not to undermine good intentions by looking like a nutcase unusual harp techniques.  For example Harpo Marx used his 5th finger which no teacher would ever suggest and Michael Cuming from Visions of a Nomad plays his harp backward when he’s also playing harmonica.  Harp and harp, get it?   He wouldn’t be able to wear the harmonica neck brace if the soundbox were against his shoulder as well.  Josh Layne uses his foot across the pedals rocking heel to toe for quick changes which I’ve never seen before.  George Flores has completely remade his relationship to the harp after a motorcycle accident that almost killed him (but not his bad boy spirit).  Diana of Reigning Harps has created a gallery of backward harps in art which reminds me of when I was a kid and tried to draw them.  Somewhere there are lumpy crayoned mermaids holding lutelike harpish objects backwards, forward and sideways bearing my signature.  Immortalized on three-lined paper.  If you’ve seen any unusual harp techniques (self-taught, adaptive or otherwise) please leave a comment.  If you’re a harpist why don’t you post on Gliiss.com where I’ve left the same query.

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