"Tarot" by Karin Marcello

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The eighth track on my SoundCloud Playlist is “Tarot” by Karin Marcello.

“Tarot” is an original composition of mine for flute and harp, written for Karin Marcello, for her  ”Vision” CD, released in 2010.  Karin is a flutist and composer from Long Island.  As mentioned in my previous blog about “Danza de las Hachas,” all of the flute and harp music for Karin’s CD was recorded at BiCoastal Music and edited, mixed and mastered in my studio.  The harp was performed by Karen Lindquist.

When we were deciding what pieces to include on the CD, Karin and I set out to create an interesting mix of music from Baroque to Contemporary for the following combinations:

  • flute solo
  • flute and piano
  • flute and harp
  • flute and chamber orchestra

To balance things out, I offered to compose a contemporary piece for flute and harp, and if Karin liked it, she could include it on her CD.  Obviously, she liked “Tarot” and it was not only included on her CD, but she has also performed it live numerous times since.

Before I started composing “Tarot,” to get some ideas of what I might do, I analyzed some flute/harp pieces by Alan Hovhaness.  I like his music a lot, but I wasn’t able to compose anything similar that I liked, so I decided instead to try a new approach and focus on creating a very personalized piece for Karin.  In addition to being a classical flutist, Karin is also a Psychic, Reiki Master, Sound Healer, and fourth generation Channeller and Medium.  The use of tarot cards are an important part of her work and so I tried to create a piece around that theme, going for an exotic, mysterious and ancient Egyptian-ish kind of atmosphere.

To achieve the effect I wanted, I tried something different.  I got out my soprano sax and improvised some exotic phrases while sitting cross legged like a snake charmer on the couch in my living room.   I wrote down everything that I played and after a few minutes I had a lot of interesting material to work with.  I entered all my saxophone phrases into Finale and starting sculpting a composition around them.  While playing around with this material, I came up with a unique concept – the flute and harp not attacking a note at the same time!  This became kind of a fun game and a big part of what the composition is about.  At a certain point I became less strict with this approach and then, finally, at 2:54, the harp plays a simple repeating, flowing accompaniment pattern under the flute melody.  This contrast acts as a welcome relief from all that came before.  After a brief solo flute section, I return to the original game of the flute and harp not attacking a note at the same time again, and the piece ends.

The harp pedals are tuned as follows:
D C# Bb / E F# G A

The pedals remain that way for the entire piece except at the end when a single high Eb is required in the harp part.  This harp tuning gives the piece it’s exotic flavor as does the occasional use of flutter-tonguing in the flute part.

Using this particular harp tuning, I was able to have the main “tonality” of the piece center around a G lydian b3 mode (G A Bb C# D E F#).  This is the 4th mode of the D harmonic major scale (D E F# G A Bb C#).  The flute plays other notes outside of this scale and this gives the harmony some motion.  The D harmonic major sound happens during the repeating, flowing harp accompaniment pattern mentioned above – the harp plays D A F# A Bb A F# A twelve times in a row.

Fellow composer and close friend, Tom Nazziola once commented on the piece:

Finally checked out Tarot. I really like this one. It shows a different side of you – a little darker, more middle eastern, perhaps even Egyptian sounding. It has a very introspective feeling and the main theme (Arabic in nature) keeps rearing its head in the flute under different harmonic underbeds from the harp which also provides many interesting rhythmic variations. I like how the harp very subtly takes over the motif from the flute. The flute solo passage is also effective and allows for the harp to sound like a new color whenever it re-enters. Very nice piece!!

“Tarot” has also been performed a couple of times by the Legacy Duo - Emily Mitchell (harp) & Margaret Swinchoski (flute).

For more info about Karin Marcello, please visit her website: www.karinmarcello.com

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