Him and his diminished chords

That guy couldn’t go ten seconds without popping in a series of diminished chords. I always call that the Joplin trick, but Chopin loved it, too. The chord progression on the B theme is:

Ab7 – Eb7 – dim – dim – Bbm – Ebm/Bbm – Ebm/Enat – FM/Ab7

That’s steeplechase territory. I’ve never had to work out pedaling like that before. I’ve barely had to work out pedaling at all. I could only do this on a lever harp by ignoring the second dim and pre-setting a lever or two. I can’t imagine how this is going to work out on a pedal harp.


So nice to have the harp, and to have found the power cords for the piano.  I lost one tall, beautiful mission-style bookcase and a hall tree, but between the instruments and the coffee pot, I’ve got everything I need to stay sane.

So nice to have spent the entire day (aside from a nice walk to the supermarket) on the Rachmaninoff and the Chopin arrangements.  Time to get that 3-volume set of Rachmaninoff voice-and-piano songs and get to work on them.


So the Chopin thing is pretty much done. He’s a lot less irritating when I get to play around with him than when I’m forced to worship him note for note.

I also discovered that throwing levers mid-piece on the wound strings is not a fun thing. There’s always an audible scraping, and it takes some oomph to manage it. Oh, it’s not an Olympic clean-and-jerk or anything, but it does take a bit of a push against the weight of the harp. It makes me wonder how one would do it on one of the ultralight CF harps. I have no prejudice against them; CF instruments are magnificent sounding and a wonderful application of modern technology. I’m not the sort to treat instruments as tablets from the mountain that must not be heretically altered. But sometimes I find myself using the weight of the thing as a stabilizing force, and I wonder how one’s technique would change if that weren’t the case.

So anyhow, there’s that finished.

This may need to be done for lever harp.

Just this part of the second piano sonata by Chopin. I think it needs arranging.

Update: Got the first part done, although some of it involves taking some notes in the other hand, as usual. We’ll see how the second part goes. Unfortunately, some of the flips are far enough down that taking them with the (less busy) right hand is not an option. 😦

Update #2: Chopin experienced a Scott Joplin moment in the middle of the thing and bounced around among a few diminished chords. This will not be simple, and it will not sound as good as I’d like it to without pedals. Wish I had a Dilling/Douglas.

Update #3: Well, I’ve managed to work my way through two diminished chords in succession, and now I need to find out what the next four measures require so that I can get back to the lever configuration I started with. One of the flips is a bit dicey; the others aren’t so bad. Let’s see:

  1. Start with two As set to natural.
  2. Flip to Enat, then flip back.
  3. Flip a Bnat.
  4. Flip another Bnat an octave up.
  5. Get rid of that flip.
  6. Somehow get rid of the other Bnat.
  7. Then we’re back to the initial configuration, and ready to cycle through the first two steps again.

It’s #3 that’s a bit challenging; the others are much less so. I’d truly like to sneak another Bnat an octave lower in there as well, but that’s on a wire string, and the levers scrape and are too hard to flip that low. If I had Camac levers, that might be different, and someday I may try them to see how differently they feel. The Lovelands that I have now feel fine though, as long as I’m not on the wound strings.

At any rate, I’ll have to noodle on that #3 flip and see what’s needed to get it to work. If that’s doable — and #5 and #6 are also possible — then it should be done, and I’ll have another short Romantic-era piece arranged for lever harp! I doubt if anyone else will want it, though. There seems to be a limited audience for pieces that require really tight lever flips, and even compared to the Rachmaninoff with that split-second F flip, this one is tight.

A theme from Chopin

There is a really pretty theme on the bottom half of page 12 of his second Piano Sonata that’s really nice:

Check out the last four lines on page 12

It’s in Bbm, which is not a lever-harp-friendly key, so I scooted it up a whole step and am interested in seeing if those four lines can be arranged decently as a short piece for lever harp, or maybe for lever harp and alto instrument. The only accidentals are naturals, so it should be okay on a harp with all open strings, but … I’m not sure if it will work out. It might, but there may be just too much flipping required on a harp-only piece. (This is the sort of thing that cross-strungs are made for.)

Chopin is definitely much more appealing when I’m trying to fit it on another instrument instead of worshipping the immovable black dots which must be followed with the paranoid rigidity of an OCD alchemist. I guess it turns out that I don’t dislike him particularly, despite my youthful experience with him, but that I just dislike having to treat his music — or anyone else’s — like an uncarved block. As long as I approach anyone’s dots as if they are a bucket of legos that I can use to build whatever I like, I seem to be happy.

I’m happy to use someone else’s dots as inspiration for my own ideas; just don’t force me to recite their dots without alteration like tablets from the mountain. It’s either clay for my own pot-throwing, or I’m not interested. I know that this is why I love Händel so much — he wrote his music with the full intention of handing the performer a blob of clay, so his music is really optimized for that. I think Beethoven would be impossible to treat like that and churn out anything worth listening to. The themes in his pieces are packed together like blocks in the pyramids; you can’t even slip a piece of paper between them.