Planxty Bowerbird Anne LeBaron

Planxty Bowerbird is a fantasia for harp and electronic tape, inspired by the mating rituals of the bowerbird. The male complements his own colorful plumage with an assemblage of ferns, sticks, pebbles, human refuse, flowers, fruit, and other assorted bright objects. His bower can be up to eight feet high! He crushes fruit or berries, dips twigs or leaf stems in the resulting paint, and brushes these vivid colors onto the bower. Finally, striving to enthrall, impress, and mate with a perusing female, the male bowerbird displays his brilliant orange crest, often holding a bright blue object in his bill for contrast, and utters a strange variety of calls. The males with the dullest plumage typically build the fanciest bowers. The Gaelic word ‘Planxty,’ often used by early Irish harpers in the titles of music they created for their patrons, means ‘homage to.’

Many years of experimentation and improvisation led to the development and codification of my unorthodox harp techniques. Theses include combination tones elicited by metal clips attached to the strings, pitch bending with the tuning key, and playing on the harp strings with a bow. One unusual method uses a metal screen door spring that functions like a textured bow. In this way, it creates sonorities similar to the whirring sounds on the electronic accompaniment to Planxty Bowerbird, and also can spawn single successive tones.

The fixed media component of this composition was produced in 1982 on a Buchla 200 Series synthesizer at the SUNY / Stony Brook Electronic Music Studios.

  • Year of composition: 1985
  • Format: Mixed work
  • Instrumentation: for harp and tape
  • Hardware used: Buchla 200 Series synthesizer
  • Duration of the submitted work: 8:15
  • Production: State University of New York/Stony Brook Electronic Music Studios (NY, USA)

Linked projects

  • Amies, Appleton, Bartley, Belkin, Berg, Bonnier, Brady, Brown, Ceccarelli, CECG/GEC…
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  • CAP
    Allik, Amies, Appleton, Austin, Bach, Bartley, Belkin, Berg, Bonnier, Bouchard…
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