You Probably Don’t Remember Me (harp and fixed media)
Run time: approx. 4′. Minimal (but noteworthy) harp preparations are required; some extended techniques are included in the score. The score itself is a mix of traditional Western notation and text instructions. Improvisation is included.
Commissioned by Helen Hill, You Probably Don’t Remember Me is a work examining the long-lasting effects of sexual assault and the strange feeling of knowing your assailant probably doesn’t even think about it. (I’ve also blogged about this idea, if you want to read.) Great for solo harpists looking for a little rep to fill out a concert—and it’s been vetted by two of them, so I promise there’s nothing too outlandish in there. (Perusal score available!)
I don’t remember everything about the young man who assaulted me, but his actions live on in my mind every day. That said, though I’ll never know for certain, I’m roughly ninety percent sure he wouldn’t recall anything unusual or disturbing about that day. While writing You Probably Don’t Remember Me, I tried to find a way to put this queasy feeling into words, but beyond the text of the piece, I don’t have many good ways to explain it. Though it’s a difficult thing to talk about publicly due to the onus we place on victims to be perfect in every way, I know I’m not the only one who thinks if I walked up to my attacker today and asked if he remembered what he did, he would say no.
It’s an interesting byproduct of the greater conversation surrounding assault: if the person who hurt you doesn’t remember hurting you, are you still entitled to your justice? (Spoiler alert: yes, you are.) Starting sentences with “he probably doesn’t remember it” can make a survivor look weak to the public eye, even when it reinforces the fact that most folks still don’t take assault seriously—including when they themselves commit the offense.
So, to mirror this, You Probably Don’t Remember Me is a little lost, driven best by the performer sitting at the harp. I’ve chosen a variety of sounds to create an eerie, uninviting atmosphere, and the harpist’s job is to get through it. As much as I’d love to make survival sound like an epic adventure, a lot of the time it’s making it through things that just don’t quite feel right. And we should honor those efforts, too.
(some performance notes included below; more appear in the score.)
During the improvisation sections, the use of extended techniques is encouraged, though the performer should tailor this to their own liking. I’ve included a few techniques in the notated sections of the score. They are as follows:
- The strings from C4 through G4 should be prepared by weaving a piece of paper between the strings. This will produce a percussive effect when these strings are plucked.
- A block of square noteheads indicate that the strings should be struck with the hand. This occurs in the low register.
- Diamond noteheads indicate that the given notes should be articulated above the tuning pegs, producing a sort of hollow, pinched sound. In You Probably Don’t Remember Me, I’ve used them to create creepy-sounding glissandi.
- Cross noteheads indicate tapping on the body of the harp. This can be done with the fingers, knuckles, or palms.
- When a fingernail marking is indicated, fingernails should be gently scraped against the harp for the duration of the rhythm.
Finally, the performer is welcome to add additional sounds, like breath noises or quiet whispering, to the piece to enhance the performance and blur the line between the fixed media and the live performance.
You Probably Don’t Remember Me was commissioned by Helen Hill.
Run time: approx. 4′. Minimal (but noteworthy) harp preparations are required; some extended techniques are included in the score.
You Probably Don’t Remember Me perusal (preview before you buy!)
- 1/18/2020, 5th Wave Collective, Chicago, IL
- 3/30/2019, Helen Hill, Concordia College, Moorhead, MN