Elisabeth Valletti : The Age of Trees
November 19, 2020
Likers and followers of Elisabeth Valletti’s work can now experience some previously unreleased material on social media – from the early days of the electric harp.
“The Age of Trees”, produced in 1992 by Jean-Michel Reusser/TakticMusic, is both a love song and a hymn to nature. Its lyrics are a beautiful poem written by Reusser; you can read them on elisabethvalletti.com, or @ElizabethVallettiMusic.
It’s not an organ playing – it’s our Blue Harp prototype!
Elisabeth notes in her scrapbook (1992): “Fiddling around with the various sound treatment racks at the studio, we got this awesome, organ-like sound coming out of “The Blue” (as Camac named their first electric concert harp). Handing me a poem he had just written down, Jean-Michel asked me – just for fun – to try it as a song. Coincidently, a harmonic suite I had in mind was perfect for the organ sound, and was put down to tape. I then recorded the lead vocal in a single take while holding the poem in my hand. No thinking, no hesitations, as if the melody was naturally calling my voice to sing it”.
Jean-Michel Reusser adds: “Often, for a valid reason, when deciding which songs will make it onto the album, some songs are left aside and aren’t part of the final cut. They are doomed to be forgotten. Years later, sometimes a tape resurfaces from the vaults, and upon listening to it, you can’t help but wonder why this particular song was left out. You have no answers, just a blurred memory and a song once in your hands; this time, ready for release.”
Elisabeth Valletti has been at the forefront of the contemporary harp since the 1980s. Albums she’s collaborated on include Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man, Quantum Dub Force, and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill; she’s also worked with jazz musicians like Kent Carter, Jean Jacques Avenel, Daniel Cobbi and Bobby Few. In the early nineties, she wrote “Credis I and II”, an ambient piece for NUNC Music, receiving rave reviews. It also caught the attention of Chris Blackwell, Bob Marley’s producer, who signed her to release Innocenti (Universal / 1998). “This is one of the best-produced things I’ve heard in years”, said Brian Eno. “I’m very impressed by E. Valletti, her voice and harp-playing, and also by the really musical feel of the whole thing.”
Subsequently, Elisabeth released A Harper: rap-oper-harp about King David; and The Orfeo Project, a collection of songs and suites drawing inspiration from everything from physicists’ String Theory, to the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Boildieu harp concerto. Her work is a unique mixture of classical, ethnic, electronica, jazz and rock, using the acoustic harp and the electric and MIDI harps with sound processing equipment: FX Pedals, Hardware + PedalBoard, and different musical software”.“I love technology”, says Elisabeth, “because it is limitless. You can always be learning something new.”
After meeting Joel Garnier, who had just made an electric lever harp for Alan Stivell, Elisabeth became instrumental in the development of Camac’s amplified pedal harps. She still plays her custom, first prototype version of the Blue Harp: solid-body, with four outputs and a curved board. It was also heavily thanks to Elisabeth’s “Harp Haikus” that the Camac MIDI harp received the QWARTZ / Max Matthews prize for technological innovation in 2011. A subsequent residency with the MIDI harp at the IRCAM and at the GRM de Radio France saw the creation of her album “Sacrum’5″ / Megadisc Classics. She is now preparing the release of her next project A TALE.
Truly, she is a unique voice for the electric harp, expressing and defining so many fascinating aspects of its evolution. Follow Elisabeth on Facebook @elisabethvallettimusic and – a Camac favourite – Instagram, where she posts images from throughout her career.