Stringing words together – writing from the harp

Many of us have been spending a lot of time on Zoom in the last few months. But not quite like this. Alex Mawson-Harris shares her experience of a music-inspired writing session, courtesy of Fiona Thompson, and her harp.

‘Write’, Fiona tells us, ‘without censoring yourself’.

Calling on the wisdom of writer Natalie Goldberg, Fiona Thompson plucks the strings of her harp, evoking a stream of consciousness we let fall onto the page.

Playing for youth orchestras during her childhood, performing across the world — from concerts in Alaska, to the Sydney Opera House, to England’s Royal Albert Hall — Fiona now plays with the London City Orchestra.

Performing via Zoom for a spellbound group of 26ers, Fiona shows us how to write in tune with the music.

In between songs, Zoom’s chat box fills with comments of pleasure, relaxation, and how for the first time in ages we’re not frantically checking our emails — soothed by the sounds of Fiona’s strings.

Bach, Debussy and Benjamin Britten are joined by literary prompts:

‘I remember’ leading us into a sepia-toned discussion with the past.

‘I don’t remember’ asking us to remember what we thought we’d forgotten.

‘I want to write about’ and ‘I don’t want to write about’ having us search our souls.

Prelude in C major – J S Bach – “I remember”
Premiere Arabesque – Claude Debussy – “I don’t remember”
Fire Dance – David Watkins – “I want to write about”
Interlude – A Ceremony of Carols – Benjamin Britten – “I don’t want to write about”
Chanson dans la Nuit – Carlos Salzedo – “I know that”
Harp part, 4th movement, Symphony No.1 – Jean Sibelius – “I don’t know that”

Hearing Fiona play Carlos Salzedo’s Chanson dans la Nuit, many of us feel the suggestion of water, letting the words run their natural course:

‘And you swim
tide strong
or flow steady

Two stars
shining your own light
in the garden of your own sound

on wood.’

– Alex Mawson-Harris

Editor’s note:

26 projects have a habit of developing a life of their own, and Fiona’s harp and writing workshop is no exception. At the harp workshop, fellow 26er Francesca Tenenbaum asked if Fiona could run a similar session for the agency where she works, Here Design. This turned into Fiona recording a half-hour radio show for their in-house radio, Hear Here!, which should go out in early July.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.