The harpist and composer Carlos Salzedo strove to be an agent of change in the harp world. His aim was to bring the harp into the modern musical world of the early twentieth century, and he created new methods and new sound effects designed to revolutionize the traditional conception of the instrument. Some of his innovations have found a permanent place in harp pedagogy; others have been discarded by subsequent generations of harpists.
He often attempted to modernize harp terminology, substituting terms he considered more appropriate for those in common use. One of his ideas was to substitute the word “flux” for the traditional term “glissando.” He believed that the term “glissando” reflected only the sliding nature of the harpist’s gesture and ignored the fluid, graceful and supremely expressive nature of the actual sonority of the effect.
While Salzedo’s use of the term “flux” didn’t come into common usage, it has been in my mind often of late. This time we are experiencing can certainly be described as a time that is “in flux.” I also believe that by accepting this time as a fluid one, where one’s moods, feelings and even reality can shift dramatically and quickly, we are better prepared to remain calm and focused amid the relentless confusion, change and uncertainty.
In the last few months, I have had much interaction, albeit over the internet, with harpists all over the world. One of the comments I have heard most often is that this enforced time at home has given them a renewed connection with their harp. Their harp has become a source of calm and comfort in a more meaningful way than previously. They have rediscovered the joy of playing the harp, the creative energy of learning, and the deep satisfaction of accomplishment.
The crisis situation is changing yet again, and many questions are still unanswerable. How safe are we? Can we go outside? Do we still need masks? When will this be over?
We don’t have answers to these questions. We are very short on certainty and facts we can trust. But we can trust music and the harp to continue to sustain us and nourish our souls, not only in the darkest moments, but every day. As we move into the next phase, whatever that turns out to be, it is crucial to create a few key harp habits that will help keep you focused and calm.
Let your harp add stability and continuity to your life through daily practice. A habit of daily practice, even if you are busy and you have little time, will provide you with a foundation of creative energy. Being consistent with your practice is more powerful than a daily vitamin and much more beneficial than watching the latest news.
Let your harp connect you to others. Social distancing doesn’t have to stop the music. It is vital to continue to share your music by playing with and for others in whatever way is possible for you. Whether you can meet virtually with a harp buddy or two or send a quick video to a distant friend or family member, your music is communication from your heart and is perhaps the most effective (and hygienic) way to share something you love with someone you love.
Let your harp connect you to your soul. Music feeds your soul. Don’t neglect this important way to maintain your equilibrium in these rocky times. This is not the moment to resist the call of your music. Whatever the next phase of this pandemic may be, remember to make your harp part of your survival strategy. I guarantee you that it’s part of mine.
Here’s one fun and quick way to demonstrate your commitment to making your harp an ongoing part of your personal recovery plan. Play a flux (a glissando) or two, simply to add beauty to your day, or share your flux with someone you love. Tell us in the comments - or better yet, show us - how you are demonstrating your “flux-ibility.”