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Marc Sabatella

...Here's your harp!

publishedabout 1 month ago
2 min read

Hello! The subject line is a reference to an old Far Side cartoon, in which newcomers to heaven are given harps. That's just a silly intro to my MuseScore Café topic for the week, which is about harp music!

Also, a reminder: this is the final week of the month, so it's time to finish your submissions for our contest, where you can win a free year of All-Access Membership!

P.S. in the Far Side cartoon, the punch line is that newcomers to hell are given accordions. I don't subscribe to that point of view personally; maybe some time I'll do an accordion episode!

MuseScore Café

This week in the MuseScore Café with Marc Sabatella, we look at the unique challenges in writing music for harp. We start with a discussion of the instrument itself and go on to show how to create some of the special notations employed in harp music.

The MuseScore Café is live on Wednesday at 12:30 PM Eastern (16:30 GMT), and you can access past episodes in the archive.

Tip of the Week

It's hard to talk about the harp without the subject of glissandi coming up, so let's address that in part right here. You can find these on the Arpeggios & Glissandi palette. Be sure to be in the Advanced workspace, not Basic, using the control on the main toolbar. Once you've opened this palette, select the first note of the gliss and then click the desired palette symbol. You can then set various properties for the glissando in the Inspector. We'll talk more about that on Wednesday.

harp glissando

Music Master Class

This week, I will give you some final tips and encouragement regarding our contest, and I will give some of my perspectives on classical and jazz.

The Music Master Class is live on Thursday at 12:30 PM Eastern (16:30 GMT), and you can access past episodes in the archive.

In Theory

The relationship between classical and jazz came up in a recent post in the Community, which itself referenced a fairly scholarly video on the subject. As I mentioned above, I plan to discuss this a bit more on Thursday, but meanwhile, I wanted to whet your appetite by pointing you to the full score for Rhapsody in Blue on musescore.com, plus my own reduction for string quartet plus piano. and a video of the premiere performance of this arrangement, with me at the piano:

In this version, I introduce judicious amount of improvisation, trying to be faithful to my own sensibilities as a composer and improvisor, and also recognizing the historical fact that Gershwin left portions of this un-notated in his own premiere performance. It's not known for certain which passages were left open or how much or them he improvised versus played from what he had previously worked out but never written down. But you can see how much I improvise by consulting my arrangement and seeing where the piano part is left as just slashes and chord symbols. You can also compare to the full score.

Improvisation is but one element of jazz, but it's a big one. For me as well as many other jazz composers and arrangers, deciding how much to write and how much to leave open is a big part of what we do and how we get the sounds we get. It's about controlling what makes sense to control but leaving room for the creativity of the performers where that makes sense.

I welcome further discussion of these topics in the Community thread I mentioned!