Anne Vanschothorst, composer and harpist

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

Before making harp and soul music, my identity was determined by my physical condition. My harp was always accompanying me even-though there was a time that I could not make music at all due to fybromialgia. During this struggle and unhappy time in my life I met my husband. He made me see my harp again. I found my identity: the harp is my heart, my breathing, my joy and consolation. I needed to listen and reconnect with the instrument after so many years. I am so grateful for this renewed love in my life thanks to my greatest love ! Nowadays improvisation and creating something new is my true passion, it makes my heart and soul dance! “Life would be a mistake without music.”

In 2007 I founded my indie label HSM and started composing and producing in commission original music for film, multi-media, ARTprojects, health-care and science. My work can be licensed as well.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

As a musician I felt the strong urge to distinguish myself and to be independent. There are lot of classically-trained harpists in the world who play and perform music written by others very well. I excel more in creating applied music than as a performer. Plus the thought of playing the same music as other harpists freaked me out anyway and this influenced me to follow my inner musical voice. I prefer to be like a sculptor in an atelier, creating and moulding my harp recordings into sound-sculptures – a scenery where one can walk around the notes, as it were. The sound-quality of the harp recordings and the musical architecture are crucial to make my compositions work. My gear is a big influence too ! I am always on a sound-search – my harp has an rich colour pallet when it comes to sound – she sounds almost like a human voice and has amazing stories to tell. My 47 strings are the basis for my compositions and audio-productions. In general I can say that authentic and heartfelt music, poetry, visual art, nature and daily seemingly innocent impressions, life itself are my main inspiration to compose music and that my feelings, my state of mind, accordingly influence my work significantly. Music is a lifesaver!

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far? During my career is making name for myself a big challenge – it still is ! As an introvert I really had to overcome the social media hurdle to make myself known. Now it is quite challenging to reach my followers and have them engaged in what I am doing as a composer. Facebook, twitter are great tools to share exciting news. I still feel unsure about sharing my personal life. It is trending in the Netherlands for musicians to share their life-story to reach a larger public and to be invited in the serious media for interviews. As a shy person I find that difficult. And how I wish that the media had more interest and curiosity in (unknown) original music. There are so many talented and edgy artists out here, a lot of times unheard and so worth the applause!

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

To find the right musical answer for the project can be a great joy and sometimes quite a challenge. It all depends on communication. Do we speak the same language? Or am I lost in translation? Am I on the right track? It is a pleasure collaborating with film-makers who give me complete musical freedom and trust in my abilities to compose and audio-production skills. It really makes me happy working on projects that are about beauty and consolation. When the artist is moved – my music really complements the project – is to me the most important and greatest pleasure.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

For my harp-monologues I ask artists (non-classical) for a musical answer. These musicians know and understand their instrument perfectly and are able to improvise on my already recorded harp-sounds. To me it is such a special moment when the harp solo is changing into a rich sound experience, thanks to the singer, the instrumentalists, the sound-designer or remixer. This moves me every time!

Of which works are you most proud? My current release Beautiful World – 11 harPoems for small ensemble – is where I am most proud of at the moment – it is the best I can for now …

How would you characterise your compositional language?

My music is characterised by critics as eg: minimal music, dream-music or neo-classical. I like to see my work as ‘landscape music’ and ‘harPoems’. I will explain these terms. Landscape Music: Like a sculptor I shape sounds into cinematic imagery with the intent to move the listener. I believe in the power of subdued and stilled music that reflects the internal & external landscapes we are moving in = landscape music; a meditative and poetical note-score (so called harPoems) that comes from my strong desire to find beauty and consolation.

harPoems : music = poetry And Poetry is Music – a language that evokes the landscape of the universal and imaginary. Therefore music unites – we are music so to speak. Imaginative and effective chosen words that express introspection – or arise from intuition – define poetry. Music & Poetry are existential, utmost profound; to be touched by the unsaid. My passion, desire, restlessness, insecurity, despair (life is really felt in absence) are filtered in the serenity of my harPoems : heart/soul, time, space and silence are essential, so one can escape into the music, another reality, a beautiful world and maybe even unravel the mystery of life.

How do you work?

Composing is such an intuitive process. Sometimes I hear a melody and then play it on my harp and most of the times it immediately becomes a basis for a free improvisation. Sometimes a composition arises through improvisation, some brain work and choices. I listen and re-listen until the composition sounds right, either I need to delete some notes or maybe I need to make a stronger melody … or the pulse – heartbeat of the music is not there yet … again I trust my gut feeling in this refining and creative process.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Minimal, meditative music composers have been a great inspiration to me. Erik Satie and Arvo Pärt have influenced me a lot. The awesome pianist Keith Jarrett is such a major inspiration (the art of improvisation) and how I love Pat Metheny (guitarist) and the great Miles Davis and a lot of other jazz music give me energy. I also listen to classical music, like the Bach cello suites as soul comfort. Gnossiennes/Gymnopédies played by Reinbert de Leeuw and of course the amazing Bach pianist Glenn Gould who taught me that the left hand has a will on its own and must be expressed in music too!

What is your most memorable concert experience?

My most memorable project would be the music I created for a nature documentary that could be watched on national TV (2016) and later in the cinema (2017). This is to me the ultimate format to share my music with an audience. I have initiated “you play I listen” as an invitation to other harpists/pianists to play my written music. I have added all their creations to a YouTube and Soundcloud playlist and on my website where one can listen to the heartfelt harp and soul music played by others! It means the world to me when other artists are interpreting my work and giving it a new set of wings and another audience, this is huge! I feel a great gratitude towards these musicians that are playing my music on video or during a live concert.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Visualize your dreams and then write them down and share your thoughts (one cannot read your mind) with verbs. You might need help to proceed with your big plans ! Surround yourself with loving and honest people who believe in you and your art. Be prepared to work hard, do the best you can and be original ; stay true to your story, your sense of urgency, believe in who you are (do not forget!) and enjoy the journey!

WITH HARP AND SOUL The harp is my heart (my most treasured possession) .. music my passion .. creating something new is the ultimate freedom to express myself (this is my greatest joy in life !) In surrender to the enchanted dance with the strings (it feels like being in trance) I can feel my harp/body and soul resonating .. my breathing is my metronome and guide. Sometimes I live a (day)dream during improv. & composition .. I go with the flow and I have such a strong connection with my instrument. And there are also these rare moments that I have an overwhelmingly open mind : I feel one with the music as if I am truly awake – I am extremely sensitive, aware and focused at the same time .. as if I know what I am doing, almost perfect happiness .. life is good .. for now.
Artist photo: Pjotr van Schothorst

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s