Earth harp at IMA


Earth Harp

Indianapolis Museum of Art, 4000 Michigan Road

April 11, 8 p.m., free, all-ages

A giant harp is the featured instrument for Friday’s Midwest premiere of composer Yuval Ron’s piece “Maya Variations for Earth Harp, woodwinds and electronics.” The Earth Harp — developed in 1999 by architect and musician William Close, who will be performing on the instrument Friday — consists of thick bronze strings that span the length of any performance space (1,000 feet across canyons, 700 feet from the top of a skyscraper to its base).

For the Indianapolis Museum of Art show, the harp strings will extend 70 feet through the lobby, anchored to the stage on one end and to a second level balcony rail on the other. To play the harp, cotton-gloved performers run their fingertips along the strings, generating a longitudinal vibration that works with physics similar to circling one’s fingers around a crystal glass. The audience may sit beneath the strings or watch from the balcony, and will have an opportunity to play the instrument following the show.

The 45-minute performance begins at 8 p.m. and is free. Ron, an Israeli-American peace activist and educator, will also conduct a Q&A and musical demonstration following a screening of the musical comedy West Bank Story at the Peace Learning Center (6040 DeLong Road) at 2 p.m. April 12. He wrote the film’s score.

To close a busy weekend, Ron is giving two talks at Butler University: “Music as a Bridge to Oneness” April 12 at 7:30 p.m. and “Ecstasy in Devotional Sufi and Hasidic Music” April 13 at 11 a.m. Both talks are in the Johnson Room in Robertson Hall and are free and open to the public.

Ron spoke with NUVO from Los Angeles.

NUVO: Where have you played “Maya Variations”?

Ron: This piece was commissioned by a relatively new center for the arts called FarmLab in downtown Los Angeles … Next to their galleries and their center there is a bridge called Spring Street Bridge … So I originally created that piece — the “Maya Variations” — to work in that specific site.

We wired the Earth Harp from the bridge down to the stage — the stage was built under the bridge, and the strings went from the stage up to the bridge, about 300 feet diagonally.

We’re very glad we received the invitation from the IMA to do the Midwestern premiere of this piece in Indianapolis, and we chose to work with the lobby of the IMA. It’s an interesting space, and it’s not a space that you would usually have concerts in.

Basically, the audience sits inside the instrument, because the strings vibrate in the space, and the space is the resonating box — imagine sitting inside a cello, double-bass, piano. It’s a very sensual experience, you feel it; you’re not just hearing or seeing it.

NUVO: Explain the central conflict in your piece.

Ron: The theme behind the “Maya Variations” is the clash of cultures — on one hand, the urban culture, and on the other hand, the Maya tribe culture nestled in the jungle.

As a musician, as a composer, I really display love for both, and value both to create this musical piece … I do try to create some kind of strange harmony and co-existence between the two, but you can also hear a certain lament in the piece — especially towards the very end — from the natural, acoustic sounds that are basically driven over by the urban world. I think you come out of this piece feeling how the intensity and power of the urban machinery ended up wiping out the natural world.


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