Data in classical music

The harp is an instrument that couldn’t POSSIBLY be related to data in any way. Or can it? Although one of the oldest, arguably one of the most traditional and beautifully classical instruments with a sound so unique and therapeutic, it has slowly evolved.

There was the classical harp, then emerged the electric harp and now, most astonishingly of all is the MIDI harp. MIDI stands for musical instrumental digital interface.

It is now possible, with the wonders of data and technology to present a harp with a MIDI controller on a computer, on the basis of frequency analysis, using their modified Axon technology. It makes the conversion into MIDI data on the harp at extremely high speed with no noticeable delay.

The MIDI harp is a regular concert harp that you play quite normally, but it can translate audio data capable of orchestral magnitude, the sound of a dog bark or even humans speaking to every string from your PC or laptop.

It is essentially what a keyboard is to a piano but much more advanced and vastly more technological.

Sioned Williams, is the lead harpist for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and has spent the last few months premiering the MIDI harp with her technician ‘Graham Fitkins’ She told me,

‘It really is an enormous privilege to be doing this. Beautiful as the harp is, I think the MIDI adds another element to an instrument already so mysterious.’

‘People ask me how I make those sounds on the MIDI harp! Of course I say that I don’t. The harp itself is silent, it’s the data from the computer that is being translated to the harp.’

I asked her which she preferred, classical or MIDI harp.

‘I have to say I prefer classical but that’s because I’m a traditionalist. With the surge of technology and the data that we can use for the MIDI, it means endless possibilities for the harp. It’s a very exciting time.’

This is Sioned playing her MIDI harp, concerto piece, ‘No Doubt’

Here is another example of what the MIDI harp can do. All the sounds you hear are coming from one harp; there are no other people with instruments in the room except for the camera man.

This shows the real power data has and how its capabilities have leapt from a computer to the harp, an instrument that one would think would remain untapped by complex technology and data intelligence.

By Alex Lawton (@AlexandraLawton)


About Alexandra Lawton

Having completed a degree at Durham University in Anthropology, i'm now doing a masters at City University in Broadcast Journalism. I am 23 years old.
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