From: Siegfried Knoepfler

Date: 16. October 2010  09:52:25 +02:00

To: cyberpluckers

Subject: Re: an interesting quote


Three days ago I thought I'm winning back a little more control of my time. In this belief I began writing this post Thursday morning, after reading the digest that came in the night before. But then I had to go to work ... and control was taken away again!

    And then all my little spare time was consumed by reading a flood of digests hotly discussing the question of lockbars and diatonic (im-) possibilities, nonetheless also interesting for me, the chromatic player. And I expected an even more interesting idea, perhaps revolutionising the whole autoharp concept, when Ron chimed in with the topic "Chordbars or no", but his exposition did then not really live up to the topic. :)


Anyway, it's now Saturday morning, and I try to get to the point of my old mail eventually:


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2010-10-14 08:30


While I not always see fit to (fully) agree with Todd's expressions of strong opinion, today's epistle belongs to those I really like. I like especially his criticising the notion of bringing people "to tears at the revelation of the fragility of perfect beauty".


Indeed, I mostly try to NOT bring my listeners to tears, just because of the easily possible revelation of the fragility of my rather limited playing abilities!  :)


Seriously, I won't deny the notion of being deeply moved at the view of perfect beauty. I find instances of perfect beauty certainly with examples of "poetry in motion" (Johnny Tillotson, 1960) but particularly with formal constructs like a strikingly elegant proof in a mathematical textbook or a piece of computer code which makes obvious that it can't be done better. (In the latter cases, my deep emotion looks rather like pure envy, however!)


So, in my musical endeavours, I value my arrangements, based on my exploration of music theory, over the recordings that I then make to see whether an arrangement sounds really as anticipated (and to help those who don't judge an arrangement just on the notation -- after I began to publish, on my Web site, arrangements I originally made for my own amusement, I also felt the need to demonstrate that and how they actually work).


Whereas I certainly always strive for playing as beautifully as I ever can and whereas I'm often quite unhappy with what I hear listening to the recording, I actually don't care so much provided that the recording shows that an arrangement does indeed work as planned: I seek beauty first in the arrangement, it's performance has much lesser priority.


This attitude of mine is of course in grotesquely stark opposition to the one which seeks perfect beauty in the performance, an attitude I presume for all true autoharpists (= autoharp artists!).


For me, autoharp playing is not so much an end as rather a means to further my insight into music. And so I play mainly for my own amusement. At the same time I appreciate very much the existence of the Cyberpluckers list, where I learned so much over the years and got ideas that never would have occurred to me.

    I'm really grateful to all the autoharpists who provided insight into music theory as well as playing techniques and the mechanics and physics of the autoharp and who set standards that even I use as beacon on my way to improvement (and, maybe, to perfection?). [If you look into the intersection set of autoharpists that contributed most in ALL these aspects, you certainly find Bob Lewis; he deserves most of my gratitude, although I'm pretty sure that he heartily disapproves of my approach!]


Naturally, as I confessed before, I also love this list because of the people who bear patiently my ramblings and allow me to cater to my vanity. :)





    Ziggy in Cologne, Germany


"The autoharp is the only instrument where the player can achieve instant mediocrity." (reported by Joe Riggs)

(I view this quote as a promise: so far I most often needed thousands of instants for decently mediocre results!)




Am 14.10.2010 KW41 um 03:34 schrieb


   <   ...   >


Message: 25

Date: Wed, 13 Oct 2010 21:34:01 -0400

From: Todd Crowley

To: cyberpluckers

Subject: [CP] an interesting quote


Cathy Brittell wrote:  <<"Can a ukulele make a sound that will bring great

men to tears at the revelation of the fragility of perfect beauty?"

...Interesting and surprising that this quote should inspire such



   The only discomfiture is the way in which such a statement reduces great

ukulele (or autoharp or any other instrument) playing to the level of


   "To bring great men to tears at the revelation of the fragility of

perfect beauty" is hackneyed language that fails to capture the ineffable

nature of great music, art, literature, etc.

    What does the "revelation of the fragility of perfect beauty" mean

exactly?  "Perfect beauty" is in itself a cliche.


     I'd rather leave such things a mystery left to the heart of the

beholder and not have it put into words.


     I've heard all the great autoharp players in competition and

performance and I've yet to be brought to tears.  Maybe that's because I'm

an ordinary man, not a great one.

     I've been amazed, awed, left shaking my head in respect and envy, but

reduced to tears? not yet.


     In the meantime, the statement about ukes, and in proxy, autoharps,

belies the populist appeal of these instruments, as expressed by Pete

Seeger, who said "[we should] not judge the musicality of a nation by the

number of its virtuosos but by the number of people in the general

population who are playing for themselves."


       If autoharp teachers/A-list performers keep telling "the general

population" that they should aspire to "bring great men to tears...", it

promotes a virtuoso mentality, rather than Seeger's populist appeal to the

"number of people...playing for themselves."


      When there as many players pursuing the autoharp or ukulele at the

highest level, as there are classical violinists or flutists, then maybe we

will get a player with the ability to reduce us all to tears, like Isaac

Stern or James Galway.


      Until then talking about the autoharp or ukulele in such terms seems

pretentious.  It's okay for ordinary people to enjoy making their own music

without worrying about the "fragility of perfect beauty."  Just as it it

important for extraordinary people to strive to make the most beautiful

music ever heard on their instrument with an entire audience passing the






Todd Crowley




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End of Cyberpluckers Digest, Vol 77, Issue 19