harpist rebecca roth

rebecca roth


by Erik Satie

Unlike the easier, translatable-to-harp Gnossiennes and Gymnopedies, this piano music by Erik Satie required some serious rearranging and reworking. Even though the harp seems to have all the sharps and flats available to play chromatic pieces like this, it is still diatonic. That means once you are in a key, that is the key you are in. At least, until you change a pedal or flip a lever. Chromatic instruments like the piano and violin have all the keys available, all the time.

So when you do need to switch between keys, sometimes you have to change a pedal or two, or… five... in the case of Satie, all at once, in the space of one note. A little difficult to do with only two feet. To get this in even a remotely playable form, I had to perform some serious note sudoku.

One of the great things about the pedal harp (and what makes glisses sound so good) is the availability of enharmonics - A♭ and G♯ are the same note, and can be played on two different strings (their respective strings) at the same time.

The goal was to change the notes like this so I would have, at most, only two pedals to move at a time. It was a fascinating mental exercise - a single respelling of one note and everything would magically fall into place, or the change would create a divergence and gradually destabilize the entire piece.

Compounded with the fact that my harp is old and not entirely mechanically quiet, and the lack of a studio, this is one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever done.

Click on or tap the artwork to listen to or buy the album, or click on the link to Satie Sarabandes.

Released 3 September 2021