Re: [Harp-L] does the (dis)appearance of the harp hurt its popularity?

Irving Kolodin of the 'Saturday Review' (cited in Kim Field's "Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers" p. 82) once reviewed Larry Adler's performance, and wrote the following:

"The best way to listen to the harmonica ... is to close the eyes and disassociate the sight from the sound. In the round, with Adler teetering on tiptoes to reach a reluctant reed, opening and closing his cupped hands to approximate the swell box of the organ, throwing in body English where all other resources failed, it seemed too much a losing battle for any reasonable enjoyment."



On Jun 2, 2007, at 12:27 PM, Winslow Yerxa wrote:

It's true, watching a harmonica player just holding and playing the
instrument is like watching someone who has bitten into a sandwich and
then forgotten to chew.

But try watching some video of Sonny Terry. Even though blind, he had a
well-developed sense of the theater of using his hands and his full
arms for dramatic effect.

In a different way, so did Larry Adler. Caricatures of him always
played up the activity of his hand and especially his fingers.

Dramatic use of hands, along with such actions as switching harps in
the middle of a lick, and just general dynamic interaction with the
audience, can make watching a harmonica player quite interesting to a
non-harmonica playing audience.


--- Marc Molino <mmolino54@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I've been thinking that listening to harmonica is wonderful, but
watching it
being played is not so fun. From an audience perspective, usually the

diatonica harmonica is mostly obscured by the hands of the player,
makes for a kind of awkward performance (turn off the sound on any
video and it looks like some one is gagging or coughing while
covering their
mouth). In rare instances, either the player's own dancing or use of
seems to add to the non-acoustic part of the performance or some very
film & editing help. Watching Sonny Boy (II) is pretty entertaining
(to me
at least):
I also like the way this JJ Milteau video was shot: (click on the little
camera icon on the right).

But what I'm noticing about these examples is that they are very
close up so
you can see what's going on. In Sonny Boy's case, he is also singing,
makes for a little more variety. Most video is either shot much
farther away
or if you're there live, you're not that close. Chromatic harp
seem more interesting visually to me simply because you can usually
see the
harp itself. I'm not necessarily arguing for making the instrument
appealing or popular, but I'm wondering what others think of how not
able to see the instrument impacts its appeal and/or how the audience

perceives it.

-Marc Molino

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