Folie a Deux 004 Johan Persson

12/03/15

Commissioning

What is an Electro-Magnetic Harp?

Emily Hall and David Sheppard introduce their Electro-Magnetic Harp.

Folie à Deux literally means ‘a madness shared by two’ and in our production a couple who live next to an electricity pylon share the delusion that it has a special power over them. And as their madness takes hold, sparks fly.

I had decid­ed to work with a harp before I even knew what the piece was about, and then when we want­ed to set it around an elec­tric­i­ty pylon, I want­ed to find a way into that world son­i­cal­ly. I start­ed think­ing about the com­bi­na­tion of a harp and elec­tric­i­ty and that led me to the idea of using mul­ti­ple ebows’ on the harp strings to cre­ate drones much like the sound of pylon. The fre­quen­cy of the elec­tric­i­ty hum in the UK is 50Hz and so I need­ed a harp which was big enough to pro­duce this note (a very low G) and all the oth­er pitch­es which are part of the har­mon­ic field of the piece. Mahogany Opera Group then com­mis­sioned David Shep­pard and Jonathan Green (instru­ment design­er) to build the elec­tro-mag­net­ic harp.
Emi­ly Hall
The harp itself is a nor­mal lever harp apart from being re-strung with met­al gui­tar strings and the sound gen­er­at­ed is pure­ly acoustic. The elec­tron­ic ele­ment is the use of small elec­tro­mag­net­ic trans­duc­ers, one per string that are con­trolled via a com­put­er and bespoke ampli­fiers. Each string can be vibrat­ed con­tin­u­ous­ly pro­duc­ing pure sus­tained notes. To make this a playable instru­ment we can con­nect it to a music key­board or fad­er con­troller, which enables the harp to be per­formed dynamically.’
David Shep­pard

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