Sophie Dickinson plays a wooden harp, which she cares for visibly, polishing it with a black cloth onstage. On the other hand, *audibly*, she outright abuses it, accompanying it with cassette tape noise augmented by a small brown amplifier. She has a reason for this, though. I asked her was it just to be cool, and she said no (though it is), it’s because it’s what she grew up with. “I didn’t grow up hearing Celtic harp music; I grew up hearing rock music, and the noise of the television set before I practiced harp in the evening.”
She just released her first CD, *Tarp*. Strange title? That’s what I thought. Duh! It’s harp and tapes, like the muppets are puppets and marionettes. There’s little point in analyzing the music, though it is delicate and complex. That distracts from the reverie it puts one in, which is pastoral and dreamy, and also, even, a little psychy.
Dickinson played to a packed house at Deep Thoughts JP tonight. She played five songs, pausing here and there to set up her “extraneous sound”. Here are some notes on the performance.
She always takes me like a mistress in dreamland another realm so placid and peaceful but a current of electricity and excitement the harp I think of angels in Ireland sipping beer at The Harp as the Bruins win the Stanley Cup across the street nice dynamics
Haze and fuzz of brown box at her feet am I worthy to touch her foot soft pluck then warm chord the tune continues interspersed with the patter of rain the high note almost brings tears to my eye intricate finger work like lace canopy over bed
She dusts wood with black cloth sets tape player sound of muffled footsteps car door slamming change drawer singsongy folk tune catchy as Frere Jacques then dark in a minor key
Sick she said the tape rewound this is her coolest audience whispering and chitchat on the tape and in the basement as the song begins honey-like and dark she sings like a little child yet the plucking so strong sure and mature beads strung on a necklace clinking now she grabs handfuls of string with the muffled voices in the background and she pauses like tentative pacing through a hall at night a young girl singing to herself waxing more confident with more drama and the strings begin again like morning sunlight with clouds obscuring rays in the breakfast garden she’s so natural with her hands it’s like she’s breaking scones with robins piping in as if it’s spring
She prepares last song to audience throng crazy recorded noise to the sound of a swan rising in the last heat of September leaves are beginning to leave their branches the bare lyricism of the wood presages October