Samplers, vocoders and ... pylons

By Helen_Sharp  -  10 March 2015

Whilst on Facebook the other day I joined the 'Pylon Appreciation Society', possibly this was noticed by some, possibly not, but a decision a few years ago to explore more than just the orchestral world has involved a curious journey over the past months.

I have recently found myself involved in a Mahogany Opera Group production called 'Folie a Deux'. My notes at the top of my score are currently as follows: Lever harp positioned in symmetry with Electromagnetic harp, check levers in correct position, two bottom strings tuned down, Sampler on flight case, check headphone cable has enough play to reach ear in both playing positions, power chord to sampler taped in, correct octave set on keyboard, tuning key accessible for obtaining quarter tones later in show, headphone in right ear. Start show by staring over sampler at the projections..... This is slightly different from the normal: '2#s, In 4'

The premise of the piece is the destruction of a relationship by one person's descent into madness, in this particular case an obsession with a Pylon. The performance challenges are completely different from those which I am used to. There is no conductor. Just two singers, folk harp doubling sampler and vocoder, Electromagnetic harp doubling sampler and vocoder, lighting designer and sound design. There are live loops, tracks that are triggered at certain points, much more responsibility for the setting of tempi, a click track for certain moments, a hauntingly beautiful Celtic Harp instrumental and my vocoder and keyboard professional debut! (Keep up with those piano lessons, besides being able to play the Aural tests for your future students you never know when those keyboard skills might come in handy)

So, it's back to the orchestra next week, but in the meantime I am embracing a more electronic soundscape. Learning that samplers and vocoders need to be played before the pulse in order to sound with the singers and exploring the theatrical environment and discovering more about the rehearsal process that singers go through in the Opera world. And of course, I've learnt more about Pylons!

Read more about Helen's performances here


About Helen_Sharp

Freelance harpist Helen Sharp is well known for exploring the daunting in the music world...

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