Image courtesy of Rik van Santen
Interview Harpo ‘t Hart
Harpo ‘t Hart is a jazz-piano graduate of the Conservatory of Utrecht. During his studies Harpo got involved in the free jazz/improv scene in Amsterdam playing at Zaal100 and the Bimhuis. Here he met theatre director Julie van den Berghe with whom Harpo collaborated on many plays as a composer and performer. Theatre was an outlet and a stage for his experiments in electronic music which he further developed in several sound installation works.
Luca Curci – When did you start practicing art, and why?
Harpo ‘t Hart – When I was about four years old, I heard my mother playing piano after she put me to bed. I always wondered how it was possible that she could produce all these wonderful sounds out of this “machine”. I wanted to know how this worked, that you could press a key and hear sounds; I had to learn to play this black monster, and kept on pressing the keys and listen to the sounds until my parents finally send me to a proper piano teacher. So it goes. After being trained as a jazz pianist, I started composing music for theatre. The interdisciplinary way of working inspired me to find other appropriations of sound. To have sound occupy a space, to use it as an object, or to make it into an actor on the stage. I started making installations that created abstract sounds and spaces.
L. C. – Can you talk about your artistic work? Which are your inspirations?
H. H. – I want to make sound tangible in a space, occupy rooms with it, create fields of sound that float through a space – so you can stick your head into a sound, and pull it back out again. Some of my inspirations are: John Coltrane, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Morton Feldman. Guillaume Bijl, E.T.A. Hoffmann and Max Neuhaus.
L. C. – What are you currently working on?
H. H. – The music of things, or non-anthropocentric music. The Dutch writer Belcampo wrote a short story called De dingen de baas, which translates as both the things in charge and in charge of things. The story is about an uprising of the things/objects against the human domination. At the height of their reign, the things play a concert for the humans as a display of their power: they play themselves and each other. Obviously they make a cacophony of sounds in various ways. I’m wondering how this would sound, so I’m exploring different modes of listening and I’m looking for, and creating sound-making practices that make this concert audible.
L. C. – What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
H. H. – “The only wrong note you can play, is the one you didn’t intend to play.” This means that when you play the piano, there are no restrictions to your musical material – you only have to do justice to your ideas. Only when it is unclear to you what you want, or if you divert from what you wanted to play, then you are in trouble. This advice helped me to be clear on whatever project I was working on. In the end this always guides my work, or how I perceive a work; the clarity of an idea in the way it is presented.
L. C. – What is art for you?
H. H. – Avant-garde art is the ultimate anti-totalitarian act. It makes way for ‘strange’ ideas, it fosters the freedom of thinking and makes use of it. It creates space in the heads of people.
Image courtesy of Rik van Santen
L. C. – What do you think about International ArtExpo organization?
H. H. – It is a great opportunity for young artists to exhibit their works in an international context. Also for the audiences it is an interesting exchange of culture.
L. C. – Do you think International ArtExpo organization can represent an opportunity for artists?
H. H. – It definitely can. It’s always important to offer young artists a platform to show their work.