EXTENDED TECHNIQUES: R. Murray Schafer – The Crown of Ariadne

The Crown of Ariadne is a phenomenally difficult, intricate piece for harp. The harpist, Rosanna Moore, is surrounded by percussion equipment which must be exactly placed, and she wears bells around her ankles. During one movement, while playing very complex patterns, she is also dancing very specific patterns with her feet. Sometimes she must follow instructions to retune certain pitches to quarter pitches in order to alter the scale. In the last movement, the harpist plays the harp, now tuned to the stranger pitches, along with a prerecorded tape of herself playing patterns at regular pitch. This creates a jarring sense of coming apart…which in fact, if we have followed the story, is what is happening to Ariadne as she watches her lover, for whom she has risked everything, sail away and abandon her.

The story is of Ariadne, the maiden to whom it was given to guard the labyrinth of the Minotaur, a fierce bull creature. She falls in love with one of the young men chosen to be sacrificed to the creature, and shows him how to find his way out of the labyrinth. There is a scene inside the labyrinth where they are terrorized by the Minotaur (shown by red lighting in the performance), they escape, and after a night sleeping and dreaming on the beach, she awakens to find him sailing away.

In the comments section on the YouTube page, the harpist adds a link to a discussion about the piece. If you connect to that, within the first three and a half minutes, she tells the story of each movement.