Asni: harps and imagination - newsletter #13 - March/April 2008
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Hello, kia ora and welcome to the thirteenth Asni: harps & imagination newsletter!


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In this newsletter:


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Listen to sound clips from the new cd

One of the nice things about releasing a new cd is that I’ve been getting lots of nice email from lots of nice people. I do apologize for not responding to all of you personally - but this is to let you know that your messages are very much appreciated.

So far the feedback is all good – here are some of the things that some of the people have written:

Dear Asni - I wanted to write and say how much I love listening to your CD. I like your settings of the LOTR film music, especially 'Evenstar'. I also really like the setting of the 'Rocky Road to Dublin'; other recordings of that song I know are all jolly and boisterious, yours is actually melancholy to me. I didn't know Michael Nyman's piece would be on it, that was a pleasant surpise, and I really like your Elvish Hymn, and the Dwarven Blues. The mix of music and instrument styles is good. Being a musicologist & musician's daughter, I can think of many people who would object snootily to putting all these different things (film music, folk, classical etc) on one CD but I never saw any reason for such narrow-minded purism, especially since you've done it so well here. So yeah, I'm very glad you made this CD! The texts inside about the various harps of Middle-earth are great too.
Just to finish things off nicely, here's what my sister just e-mailed : "I also got the lovely Asni CD, thank you so much! I think it is lovely. I have put it on my ipod and listen to it on the train, wishing I were in Middle-earth..." (She's a Tolkien/Fantasy literature specialist and much more knowledgable about Middle-earth (and early music, come to think of it) than I, actually.) I hope you're getting nice reviews/feedback from others too - you really deserve it!
C.A. Hiley, Berlin/UK

I arrived back in New Zealand two days ago and got the CD at the marina office yesterday, listened to it last evening on deck through cockpit speakers. It is great, as is the entire production: liner notes--if that is what they are still called, photographs, illustrations.

I carry my music from one side of the world to another in iPods, which are a bit more convenient than 500 CD's. I imported your CD this morning, including taking a photo of the cover illustration art work.

About half my music is classical and half other, mostly what could be called 'world'. Your's is the only harp music. You have a unique talent and sound, and I'm very glad that I happened to hear you one day on Radio New Zealand.
Webb C., yacht Hawkeflown, currently sailing around the world

Received the cd's in good order. I have played my copy and I really like your music; very atmospheric and melodic. I constantly play Tolkienian music in my shop and your cd's will certainly be one of them with others like the Howard Shore complete soundtracks, The Tolkien Ensemble, Lingalad and Glass Hammer.
The Tolkien Shop, Leiden, The Netherlands


Am very happy recipient of a CD that turned up recently. New Zealand harper Asni's album Travels in Middle-Earth is just out. Now there is no shortage of Middle-Earth-inspired music, but this is the top of the pick. Middle-Earth is the stage for a solid exploration of a real variety of themes with the harp - original, traditional, folk, modern. Buy it, not only will you be helping out an artist who has the courage to self-produce without any compromises what she believes in, it really is lovely. In fact, pick up her other CD 700 Years of Pop, which is truly delightful.

***Okay, so I stole that from the debut album of Pink Floyd.

John Howe, in his newsletter

Hi Astrid!

Thanks so much for the CD. It got here in the mail yesterday and I'm listening to it for the first time now. The music is beautiful and I'm totally impressed with your ability to put together such a creative and original project and do EVERYTHING yourself! I feel like a lazy-assed, talentless bum in comparison : )

Take care and keep up the good work,

my friend Julie, who is anything but a lazy-assed, talentless bum!

Just to let you know that the CD arrived today, and it is really nice. I enjoyed it very much - thank you for something that fills a spot where the vast amount of nonsense that passes for music these days can't. Thank you. David W., from Australia

Many thanks for the CD which arrived on Monday! Listening to it is great pleasure, especially that being ill now I have lots of time to explore your music. The pieces on the CD really evoke memories of Valinor, Beleriand, Rivendell... Many thanks for your beautiful music! Marcin, from Poland

i recieve your cd yesterday! and i take a long time to listen it .... whoauuuuu , what a beautifull sound ! pure sound ! i was afraid to listen an entire complete music with harp ...and the resultat is very excellent ! wonderful beautiful moment, the journey is superb ...when i listen it ( with my girl friend ) , i read the book , and what a last surprise ! to see my name in your "thanks" the last gift of the excellent project ! see you. Fabien, from France

I got the cd on saturday. Many thanks. It is excellent, beautiful music. Ola, from Norway

I got your cd this week, thank you so much! It was a very nice surprise to find the leaf inside. The booklet is very tastefully beautifully done and fits perfectly with the music. I've only listened to the cd twice so far but of course I love it, who couldn't? The harp is truly a wonderful instrument with a lot of possibilities, at least that's the impression I have. Hélène, from Switzerland

I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your CD. And thank you for the leaf. It was a very nice personal touch. Myra, from the UK


This brings me smoothly to the next topic. I hope you fellas who have subscribed to the cd have all been pleased with the little leaves I sent around … It's been an excellent way to practise with the new watercolours I bought myself for Christmas (and applying what I've gleaned from John Howe's newly released "Fantasy Art Workshop", more of that below). For those of you who are not hardcore Tolkien aficionados I might want to explain that the idea comes from one of Tolkien’s non-Middle-earth stories, Leaf by Niggle.

It’s about a man called Niggle who is a painter, but not a very successful one, because he has too many other things to do. He is working away on his master work, but keeps having to do favours for his neighbour Parish who is permanently ill, much to Niggle’s annoyance, because it keeps him from completing his painting. Eventually Niggle has to go on a Journey which he has been long expecting, but is utterly unprepared for, and he never manages to finish that painting. He finds himself in a place that oddly resembles his own painting. Neighbour Parish appears as well, and they become best friends – the place becomes known as Niggle’s Parish and is said to be beneficial to those who have newly arrived from their Journey. Meanwhile, back home, the huge canvas Niggle has been painting on, has been used to patch someone’s leaking roof, and all that remains of Niggle's work is a small shred showing one leaf, done in incredibly loving detail. It is kept in the local museum for a while, though not much at all is known about the artist, and the label just reads “leaf, by Niggle”.

It is really a very lovely story, full of wisdom and insight about art, life, and neighbours. Read it if you can, it is well worth the read.

Unfortunately, I am missing four of my leaves! I’ve scanned them all before I sent them off, so that I can create a gallery on my website, but one of the sheets did not scan properly.

If you own one of the missing leaves – they are on a pale orange-brownish background and NOT one of these:

- PLEASE could you scan it for me and send me a copy? Once I get round to updating my website, I will publish a leaves gallery as part of my Travelguide to Middle-earth, and it would be nice to have it complete. The idea is that in say, 20 or 50 year’s time, they will fetch a really good price on Ebay … so you better make sure to keep yours. :-D


It’s been a long time coming – but I’ve finally decided to face the inevitable and put one of my harps up for sale. Although I am happy to say that I have managed to cover the cost of the cd manufacture and copyright licenses (for those of you who have been following my subscription fundraiser with baited breath) – still, my funds are a bit deplete, and my multimedia design course at Natcoll is now approaching its end, which means that I need to buy myself some equipment. There seems little point in acquiring all that knowledge if afterwards you don’t have a way to use it.

This just to assure you that there is nothing wrong with the harp in question – or either of the two harps, in fact. I’ll be selling either one of my two Italian style triple strung harps (after models from the early 17th century). They are the kind of harp Monteverdi would have known and are well suited not only for the harp part in l’Orfeo, but for any 17th century or early 18th century music, and especially fantastic for continuo playing. Not to mention that they also work really well for playing Howard Shore and assorted traditional or contemporary music! They just are gorgeous, beautiful instruments, and I will be loath to part with either of them – but then, I really do not need the two!

Both harps are built by Simon Capp (who does not have a website and I'm not sure if he builds any more) - and are top of the range instruments – Simon has been the builder of choice for many professional performers on historical harps. One harp dates from 1993 and the other from 1997. They are both in excellent playing condition (bar some broken strings, which I’ll be happy to supply). One is located in Germany, the other here in New Zealand – so the choice is largely up to the location of the prospective buyer. Both harps come with padded bags, and for the NZ harp, there is a flight case available. Here is some more information – note that the photos show the harp that is here in Wellington, the other harp is natural wood colour.

The price for either harp (including bag) is NZ $ 12,000/Euro 6,500 (neg.) – and there will be no several years waiting time, as there would be for a new instrument! Please send me an email if you are interested, and feel free to pass on the information in the harp community or to anyone who might want to buy. For a sound sample, listen to any of my cds, most of the tracks on most of them are recorded on one of these two harps.


My multimedia course will finish on 12 May, by which time I will have a showreel which I will be posting on my site. Meanwhile, I have been busy completing assignments – click here for an update on how my 3D and video work has been progressing.

There are two things that will be due after the course finishes – one is a proper release gig for my new cd, which I am currently in the process of organizing. I’ll send invitations around once I have a definite date and place.

The other will be a major re-designing and general update of my website – which has grown in a rather haphazard manner over the last five years. I will be re-structuring the site to include my new multimedia portfolio (and, of course, make use of my new web design skills), but I’m afraid there will have to be quite a bit of weeding of random undergrowth. If there are any sections of the site that you are particularly attached to and would like me to keep, please let me know! But there are pages that have not been updated since 2002, and I will probably have to get rid of most of those, and streamline the place a bit. It should not become less fun in the process though, I quite like the organic way in which this place has grown. I hope my visitors do, too!

I also hope to introduce some new features such as better structured image galleries, user feedback and hopefully a forum, which has been a pipe dream of mine for quite a while – so stay tuned!

check here for: news updates * new art & multimedia work * upcoming concerts * workshops and courses


One of the perks of doing the graphic design for my own cd was that it gave me an excuse to play around to my heart’s delight with John Howe’s beautiful artwork. The cover image of the cd is not, strictly speaking, one of his many illustrations of Tolkien’s work – it was originally created for a novel by Charles de Lint, Into the Green (a rather lovely story btw). But we both thought it looks easily Middle-earthish enough, with hints of Fangorn Forest. And of course, if you’re looking for cover artwork for a harp cd, having a harper in the picture is a definite plus!

When I chose the image from John’s vast portfolio, I wouldn’t even have said that it was my favourite among his paintings. In fact, I might not even have named John among my favourite painters a few years back, but his work has a way of slowly growing on you. I have seen many images by many painters that captured me more immediately, that were more obviously striking. But often, after a while they go stale. Not so with John’s work. I have been looking at my cover painting – frequently, and intensely – for more than a year now, and each time I look, it becomes more beautiful. It’s not just the incredibly fine and precious detail – there is something about the arrangement of light and dark, the subtle balance of colours that is incredibly satisfying.

If you thought that green and brown are the predominant colours in the picture, look again. I have been colour-sampling my way through the image, and what my eyedropper tool mostly came up with are shades and hues of purple, golden-green-brownish yellows and pale blues, with some bold dashes of bright turquoise for contrast, and the orange and warmer brown and purple of the harper’s hair and dress. You can spend quite a while sampling colours from the image until you hit a pixel that is actually green.

Lucky for all of us, John is rather generous with giving away the secrets of his trade – in fact, he has just published a book whose main purpose is to help people learn how to paint fantasy images. Fantasy Art Workshop is advertised as a step-to-step guide for the aspiring fantasy illustrator, sort of a “How to paint like John Howe” kind of book.

In reality, it is much more. Yes, it contains sound advice on anything from what brushes to choose to how to present your portfolio. But it also contains a lot of John’s personal painter’s philosophy, which happens to include a sound dislike for “how to” guides and shortcuts of any sort. He’d much rather have people paint like themselves – and actively encourages people to do so when he gets the chance, for instance through his internet forum (having spent quite a lot of time there myself, I can testify to that!)

What he does do is offer people an insight into his own painting process. Easily the greatest feature of Fantasy Art Workshop are the step by step demonstrations in which he dissects his own artwork, to serve as an example rather than to be slavishly imitated as a method. As far as I’m concerned the book is worth buying just for those, and for the lavish and plentiful reproductions of John’s artwork.

But John wouldn’t be John if he’d left it at that. Instead, he accompanies the images with texts that range from anecdotes about arriving at an idea, to metaphysical observations about the nature of myth, fantasy and image making. And everything in between, from how to source good reference material and the importance of observation from nature, to hints about how to tackle the business. Erudite, honest and clearly stated – a book not just for aspiring fantasy illustrators, but for anyone who has an interest in painting, myth, fantasy or the generation of a piece of art.

Arohanui, from Asni

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