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Dutch harpist Gwyneth Wentink reinterprets the classical instrument, and brings in science to create audio-visual magic
While growing up in Holland in the ’80s, Gwyneth Wentink spent her time attending concerts and playing around with musical instruments at home. Born to musician parents, Wentink was four when she saw someone play the harp. “We had a lot of instruments at home, just not a harp, and I’d ask my mother for it every day. A year later, they bought me one and I started taking lessons,” she says. At 33, she is one of the more well-known harpists in the world, and what sets her art apart from the rest is her penchant for reinventing it over and over again.
Wentink is now bringing two of these experimental performances — titled Canto Ostinato:Audio Visual and Piece of Heart and Vibration — to Delhi as part of UnBox Festival 2014. “Canto Ostinato is one of Holland’s most popular classical compositions by Simeon ten Holt. It’s originally played on four pianos. In my version, it’s on the harp, and I have collaborated with electronic musician Wouter Snoei and video artist Arnout Hulskamp,” she says. Wentink mentions that the piece, which is two-and-a-half years old, is part of “minimal music tradition”, and can go on from an hour upto two days. “On Saturday, we will obviously play it for one hour, not more, I promise you,” says Wentink, giggling.
This, however, is not her first time in India, as she has been travelling and touring the country since she turned 17; Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Jaipur, Hyderabad, she rattles off. Her India connection isn’t just limited to these cities. “Seven years ago, I met Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia in Holland through a friend, and we started playing together randomly, for about 10 minutes. A few weeks later, he called to ask if I’d like to come to New York and perform with him. At least twice a year, I play the harp at concerts with him. He’s very inspiring,” says an excited Wentink.
While Canto Ostinato: Audio Visual brings together two genres, the second piece called Piece of Heart and Vibration mixes two fields — art and science. “For this one, I have collaborated with a Dutch scientist, and it’s a year old. This will be the second time that I will be performing it,” says Wentink. She improvises on the harp over the “music” generated by her heart, which is pre-recorded. “It’s very experimental and that’s why it fits the UnBox roster, since the festival is all about mixing processes and disciplines,” she says.
Canto Ostinato: Audio Visual and Piece of Heart and Vibration will be performed at Lodi: The Garden Restaurant on Saturday, 8:30 pm onwards. Entry is free