Andrea Oliva Florendo

The Painted Harp: A Note, A Brushstroke and A Flower Story

Andrea Oliva Florendo, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Theology and Religious Studies

How can a note, a glissando, or plucking a string of a celtic harp serve as a foundation for a painted flower? This research started with a glimmer of an idea that flower painting and harp music might somehow be linked. Unseen by me and parallel to my years of botanical painting and practice of Harp Therapy, my exploration into nature and the harmonic life of plants was forming a root from which art and music would later emerge. I hunted for clues and while these clues may not appear to be linked to healing and a spirit of wellness, a closer look reveals that they are sustained in a common ground.

A single well that could feed the roots of connection is through the seven modes and keys which correspond to color and flower essences inspired by Kay Gardner’s Sounding the Inner Landscape.

Mode Key Color Flower/Essence
Ionian C, C# Red Rose, Geranium
Dorian D, D# Orange Clematis Almond Blossoms
Phyrigian E, E# Yellow Jasmine, Iris
Lydian F, F# Green Narcissus, Jonquil
Mixolydian G, G# Blue Lily of the Valley, Lilac
Aeolian A, A# Indigo Lavender, Balsam
Locrian B, B# Violet Seet Violets, Carnation

At the heart of the study of life’s rhythm is a realization that the flow of rhythm in a harp can also be found in nature, and in man. Just as plants respond to the wave lengths of music, a resonance is also produced in the organs of the body. The musician who wishes to affect moods by rhythm is like an artist who uses lines, colors, shapes, textures to create an artistic impression.

While a note, a chord or an improvisation is played, the participant creates a series of line drawings, or brushstrokes to get the mood across as the music is played. A filigree, an arabesque or a series of scrolls, scallops, and ribbons might dance on the page. The Ionic mode can be strong anchors provoking images of rootlets burrowing in the ground; or, tendrils reaching for an arbor; curling stalks. The Dorian mode inspires images of branchlets, flowering shoots, leaf spirals, trembling curlicues, florets and petals. Aeloian brings images of clustered needle pines, lichen, moss festoons, and so forth.

At the heart of the process is the realization that the choice of loops and lines are subjective analogies of the student’s feelings. The harp is simply an aid to help the participant unfold to his own rhythm. As he develops, he discovers the harmonies of his being and the well spring of creativity. Because he is moving with his own breath and heart beat, it becomes a rhythm that is completely individual but universal. Both harp and art are like threads weaving through subject areas essential to the whole creative arts endeavor.