Carolyn Mills Harp

New Book --A Tribute to Lucile Lawrence

April 1, 2012
Well, it's official -- I am a hopeless blogger! If you have been patiently waiting for something new, I thank you. But probably you haven't :-)

Actually I have been writing, but just not here. My wonderful friend and colleague Sara Cutler, Principal Harpist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, has been my collaborator on a book about our late teacher Lucile Lawrence. The book, titled Lucile Lawrence, A Harpist's Philosophy, has just been published by Lyon and Healy, and is now available from their website:

Miss Lawrence was a truly inspirational musician and teacher. Sara and I hope that our book will, in some small way, help to preserve her legacy and her unique methodologies. The process of writing, and again focusing more and more deeply on her words and her beliefs, has been a wonderful and rewarding experience.

The book features a number of colour photographs, taken by my photographer husband Craig Hunter -- who also shot (almost) all the images on my website.

And, in case you missed it on the home page -- the beautiful Otari for Solo Harp, by Helen Fisher, is now available for download via Paypal. It is a gorgeous work evoking the tranquility and gentle movement of the native bush reserve by the same name in Wellington. Enjoy!


Music Is Healing

March 3, 2011
All of us in New Zealand have been shocked and drained by news of the terrible quake in Christchurch last week. For we who live in other parts of the country, it is impossible to imagine just what it was, and still is, like, for those affected. We really want to help, but we also feel helpless. If we only had magic wands... but I haven't seen any of those making an appearance.

As a very humble contribution, I have decided to donate all the proceeds from my recently-recorded harp solo work by Kenneth Young, a composer originally from Christchurch, to Variety, The Children's Charity. Variety is set up to assist children who have suffered loss, injury, or other traumas from the quake, and it seems a very appropriate way to make a small difference.

Ken's beautiful and haunting work, entitled Autumn Arabesque, is now for sale on my website. If you would like to help the children of Christchurch by purchasing the mp3, please click on the Buy Now link on the main page or downloads page. And do enjoy the music!

Alice in Antarctica

February 18, 2011
Another harpist in Antarctica! Alice Giles from Australia is there right now, and heading towards Mawson Station with her harps. Her grandfather was an Antarctic explorer, and Alice has received an arts fellowship as the first Australian professional musician to perform there.

Alice is writing a blog and sending photos of her experiences -- visit her here:

She has a great looking concert programme lined up for Mawson Station, which I would love to be able to attend :-)
Probably too late to make travel arrangements though!

Technical Discussion ~ Closing the Hand

January 30, 2011
If you are a harpist and you are wondering why it is important to close your fingers, try this little experiment:

Open the hand, away from the harp, as though you have placed your fingers on the strings. Now move the ends of the fingers only, pretending to pluck the strings, but not moving the large knuckles at the base of the fingers at all. Move the finger ends many times, back and forth, pretending to play lots of notes; do this over and over. Now pause, and quietly notice what your hand feels like. A little tired, perhaps? Some tension in the tendons in the back of the hand?

Next, still away from the harp, open and close your fingers many times fully into the palm, fingers going in flat, not in a fist. Let the movement originate in the hand itself more than in the fingers. The large knuckles are now acting like hinges. Do this as many times as you did the first exercise. And now pause, notice how your hand feels. Do you feel more ease in the tendons? Less tension in the hand? Less tired even in the muscles of your forearm?

When we play the harp, we are often so focused on the music and getting the right notes that we forget to pay attention to how things feel. If our hands or arms are tired or sore, we need to ask why -- what am I doing that is contrary to what my body wants to do naturally?

Fully closing the fingers over the palm of the hand after playing, allows release of the movement we have just completed. It allows the hand to momentarily rest. It also allows the muscles of the forearm to have a short release before the next movement starts. These little rests add up, and make it possible to play much longer without getting tired or sore. And, happily, playing this way can also dramatically increase the resonance of the sound.

I hope this is useful, and would love to hear your feedback or experiences with these experiments. You can email me at the address on the homepage. And...happy practicing!

Harps ~ Not Just For Angels Anymore!

January 26, 2011
OK, let's admit it -- lots of us have been seduced by the peaceful rippling ethereal waterfall sound the harp is so good at making. In fact I am not quite sure this wasn't the first thing that attracted me to the instrument. But the harp has got so much more to give -- it can be percussive, rustling, harsh, whispering, expressive, brutal, fiery, scintillating. In fact there are more tonal colours available to the harpist than to almost any other instrument, it's just that they are often overshadowed by that angelic reputation.

Harp virtuoso and composer Carlos Salzedo helped to start the harp on its journey out of the Victorian salon and into the modern world, with his many explorations into the darker and more haunting side of the instrument. Here is a link to a performance of Steel, from his work for two harps, Pentacle. He cuts the characteristic resonance of the harp very short and exposes a fierce and exciting edge. Harp music as you have not heard it before!!

Be Inspired

January 24, 2011
I wanted to start this blog with something inspiring and universal -- not just relating to the harp, but to music, and really to all of life.  Benjamin Zander is passionate about music and about human beings.  Listen to his talk on TED.COM and discover... well, he says it much better!

WWW.TED.COM   ~ for more amazing and interesting talks

 A Space For Thoughts, Links, Ideas, and Things I Love About The Harp