Damhsa Sa Gaoth - A Celtic Fantasy (for Harp)

Last night was the second round of performances for NYU’s Mix Nouveau program, a collaboration between the string and composition departments. I wasn’t originally going to participate in the program, as it consists of mostly solo string pieces and a few duos, and my interests are more in the large ensemble world. However, during one program meeting it was announced that a harpist had joined, and would anyone like to be paired with her for this process. I immediately jumped on the opportunity and most certainly have not regretted it.

I have always loved the harp, it’s arguably one of the most beautiful instruments out there, yet it is also the most misunderstood and underutilized. I learned very quickly that the paradigms of writing for harp are very different from the other stringed instruments, and even piano, which is the trap that most composers fall into when writing for harp. Unlike the other instruments, I felt that I was able to truly create a musical world with the harp with which to explore both its capabilities and musical ideas.

I must also give a tremendous amount of thanks to my partner in this, Sissi He. Not only is she an amazing harpist, but she also contributed by making suggestions and adding expressions to the piece that I could not have even conceived of, and the piece is infinitely better because of her.

About the piece itself:

Damhsa Sa Gaoth, translated “Dancing in the Wind” is a Celtic fantasy for harp, and the second piece I’ve written based upon my love and fascination with Irish music. While I did not have any specific intentions when writing this piece, one could imagine dancing on a hilltop, twirling in the wind, with beautiful Irish landscape all around her.

Cover art by Bella Carlos