The harp has struggled to break back into the public consciousness in recent years, but thanks to the efforts of harpists such as Cecilia Chailly, Rhodri Davies, Mary Lattimore and Gwyneth Wentink, a small resurgence is taking place. Don’t speak to them of angels and clouds; the instrument in their hands may be heavenly, but it resonates with earthly timbres.
Wentick’s specific instrument is the triple harp, whose ancestry dates to the 1600s. Her trump card is Richard Chartier (Pinkcourtesyphone), whose gentle, tasteful electronic augmentations transform this 19-minute piece into a beguiling work. While the press release proclaims that Elision was “created for background consumption”, the piece possesses such intricate beauty that it demands foreground listening as well.
Those gorgeous strings ~ three rows, instead of the typical single row ~ grace the composition with an organic sound. At first, soft electronics are woven into the background like painted scenery; but they don’t stay there for long. By mid-piece, these electronics expand like gas, surging from ambience to drone, before a dual recession of string and tone reduces everything to filigree.
When asked to provide a full translation of the M. Staudte quote that closes the track, Chartier wrote, “so this is ‘me’? ‘me’? ‘me’? what is this this? what is this ‘me’ ?“. These words lead one to wonder if the work might be considered one of identity found and lost, of questions asked yet unanswered, of souls adrift in a restless world. Is the harp the disappearing ‘me’? Perhaps we are reading too much into a short fragment. The title refers to “the omission of a sound or syllable while speaking,” Suffice it to say that the identity seems to disappear while listening, if only for a series of shifting seconds.
For most of us, there is only the unattended
Moment, the moment in and out of time,
The distraction fit, lost in a shaft of sunlight,
The wild thyme unseen, or the winter lightning
Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts. (T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages)
Chartier and Wentink offer Elision as a panacea for an “anxious and medicated society.” As the track wraps around from back to front, it’s a clear candidate for consecutive spins. But what if the work is also a parable? If our anxieties are meant to melt into this low sonic heat, perhaps those heavenly associations are not so far off after all. (Richard Allen)