Carlos Salzedo and the development of harp in North America : modern timbres, techniques, and new music networks
Over the course of the twentieth century, the harp became a more modern instrument; harpist-composer Carlos Salzedo (1885–1961) played an important role in this change. With harp music being lesser known than music of some other instruments, there is limited written information addressing the subject and even less information about newer harp repertoire, harpist-composers and composers who have written for the instrument. When French-born harpist Salzedo immigrated to the United States in the early twentieth century, he sought to promote the harp as a modern instrument while affiliated with ultramodernist composers of the New York music scene including Edgard Varèse, Henry Cowell and Dane Rudhyar. Salzedo was the first harp pedagogue to fully explore new technical and timbral possibilities of the harp: he focused on a less traditional way of composing for the harp and published new method books including his extended techniques and compositions along with his student, Lucile Lawrence. Salzedo’s ideas aligned with those of his social and artistic circle in the U.S.. He participated in the creation of new organizations such as the International Composers’ Guild with Varèse to focus on promoting international new works to audiences; and the National Association of Harpists to gather harpists from all around the country and its official journal, Eolian Review, disseminating articles regarding the harp and modern music. Salzedo was also highly involved in pedagogy by establishing high-school programs, higher education harp studios and a summer program. With these significant engagements, Salzedo created a vast community and network of students and influenced audiences, composers, and other harpists. This treatise describes Salzedo’s compositional characteristics, innovations, community building, and how these components inspired composers and performers to continue this growth of making the harp modern. In my contribution to promoting new works for harp, I have compiled works by composers from or based in the U.S. and Canada of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in a catalog. The goal of this catalog is to give these compositions more visibility to harpists and non-harpists. Without doubt, musical works are still to be added in the future as these lists are not exhaustive.