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New crowdfunding initiative from François Pernel

François Pernel. Photo : Towtam

François Pernel. Photo : Towtam

François Pernel is crowdfunding again, with a particularly interesting set of rewards for his backers – music written especially for them, and incorporated into his new books. He talks to Harpblog about his project!

François, you have just launched a crowdfunding project called “New compositions for lever harp”. Can you tell us more about it? 

I have been composing for the lever harp (often called the “Celtic harp” for several years. My first collection, “Autre Chose pour Harpe à Leviers” (“Something Different for Lever Harp”) enjoyed a lot of success, and has really done the rounds now, being played throughout music schools and conservatoires. I was even invited to be in juries, to hear pupils playing my works. This was how it all began!

It was in this way that the question of doing a second edition came up. “Autre Chose” contains ninety-six pieces/arrangements, from beginner to intermediate level, with Celtic, modal and modern music. So: I have turned to a crowdfunding site I have used before: Ulule. I am not only going to re-edit “Autre Chose”, but also create a new work, “Mélanges” (“Mixtures”). A special aspect of the project is that I will also compose special pieces for those who contribute to my funding – and incorporate them, with a dedication, into the published volumes themselves.

What is your new book “Mélanges” going to be like? 

This volume consists of chamber music pieces including lever harp – harp duo, harp trio, violin and harp, flute and harp, etc. It’s a compilation of all the compositions born of masterclasses that I have been invited to give, and from my daily work as a teacher. I work with a group called Harpinbag, an ensemble of young harpists from the Aquitaine region, directed by Aude Fortict. They are always hungry for new music, and they play a good deal of the repertoire you’ll find in “Mélanges”. We have even recorded a CD, also called “Mélanges”.

What sort of playing level will “Mélanges” be aimed at? 

It will mix the levels. There is always a very simple line, for complete beginners, and then one or more that are a bit more difficult, for the more advanced students. I really believe that learning together complements individual study. It is not a question of substituting one for the other. Playing together lies at the heart of music-making, yet harpists are often isolated – because there isn’t enough repertoire, or opportunity. To form an ensemble out of a harp class is always hugely enriching. First of all, it brings the class together. Secondly, the fact of observing each other spurs people on to improve, and finally – and this is the principal on which all societal learning is based – the older students coach and help the little ones. This is motivating and valorising for them, because it is up to them to set a good example…this sort of collaboration seems essential to me for society in general, and young people need to learn to do it if it is to enrich the societies of tomorrow.

Can pedal harpists play these pieces? 

Yes, of course. Even if my writing is focused on emancipating the lever harp so that it be taken as seriously as its big sister, all my pieces are completely playable on pedal harp. I always work with accidentals that allow something of a harmonic journey. This can be very simple for lever harp, but challenging on the pedal harp. But I keep this within reason, so I still think pedal harpists won’t have too many problems…and not get bored either, because rhythmically speaking there is also plenty to do. I like irregular time signatures, binary and ternary shifts, and so on.

Coming back to the idea of specially-dedicated compositions – how did you get this idea? 

First of all, I can only composer about, for or in homage to something or someone. Composing into emptiness always seems to make for uninteresting music. I often write for my pupils – as a teacher, so always thinking of particular instrumental techniques, but als as a composer. I think of a composition according to my student’s personality, something I think will suit him or her well. I mean, I don’t lay any claim to absolute truths regarding composition, but what I can say is that I rely more on my intuition, and my connection with the person to whom the score is dedicated, than on an abstract, intellectual way of writing, that is cut-off from the outside world.

The advantage of the internet is that I can make it possible for anyone who wants to have a piece custom-written for them, to have one. They can be a harpist, or not a harpist – it doesn’t matter, they can have a place in one of my books! If a lot of people take me up on my offer, then the books will be longer! I’m curious and motivated about who will want to have a piece written for them.

Of course, it’s also important to collect the funds for these books, but it is this idea to composer “à la carte” that really grasps my attention. As far as the money is concerned, perhaps I will have three compositions to write…and perhaps fifty! I would love to spend my summer composing. If I find myself with fifty pieces to do, I will make two or three volumes, for the same online subscription price.

For the crowdfunders who ask for a solo piece, these will be added to the ninety-six pieces currently in “Autre Chose pour harpe à leviers”. “Mélanges” will have twenty pieces, plus all the crowdfunded chamber music works.

What crowdfunding options are you offering? 

There are four options. The first one is for donations from five euros – thanks! – to fifteen euros, at which point you will receive my album Galaxya as an MP3.

Next, you can choose to pre-buy my books (without or without postage costs). “Autre Chose” is being offered at a special price of twenty euros + postage (instead of the usual twenty-nine euros). “Melanges” can be yours for thirty euros + postage. Really, I wanted to create a deluxe package, with scores and tear-out individual parts. I am also going to be working with the illustrator Perrine Cierco again, to make the book particularly beautiful: fine paper, a nice book jacket and illustrations.

When I started the harp, we had to buy music of course. I still have the sheet music from when I was six years old. All my photocopies, however, have long hit the wastepaper basket. I think it is important to continue to give fine books to our children (and to ourselves) – and that these books accompany our musical studies, grow yellow and dog-eared…photocopies and PDFs don’t have the same life.

The illustration option, in collaboration with Perrine Cierco

Perrin Cierco can make a copy (an original illustration) of one of the illustrations that feature in my books. What we will do is send scans of all the available illustrations, and the crowdfunder may choose which illustration they would like to have reproduced.

The “composition à la carte” option 

For one hundred and fifty euros of crowdfunding, I will write a composition for solo harp, one page long, that I will include in my book “Autre Chose pour harpe à leviers”. You will give me your technical requirements, or the atmosphere you’re looking for. You will choose the title and the playing level, and your name will be published under the title, either in full, or just your first name, or a pseudonym, or you can choose to remain anonymous. You will also receive a copy of “Autre Chose”, of course.

For two hundred and fifty euros, I will compose you a harp solo that is two pages long, and that will also be published in “Autre Chose” under the same conditions. 

For four hundred euros, I will write a chamber music work (such as for harp ensemble, or flute and harp…), four pages long. This will be incorporated into “Mélanges”, under the same conditions as the other commissions, and including a complimentary copy of the book.

Thank you very much – and find out more on Ulule!

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