RPS Julius Isserlis Scholar 2019
This Autumn, British harpist Milo Harper will begin his Master's with Emmanuel Ceysson at the Mannes School of Music in New York City, supported by the RPS Julius Isserlis Scholarship.
We asked him to share some thoughts about his future, and the composers and pieces he keeps close to his heart.
New York City! What drew you towards this metropolis, and where do you think it will take you?
I’ve always been drawn to the mystery and liveliness of the city, I visited once as a child and the main thing I remember from that trip was the underlying feeling of excitement in the air. I’m also fascinated by the arts culture in New York and how it has evolved; I find Patti Smith’s writing really beautiful and I love artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat who’ve shaped the NY art scene. It’s very lucky for me that Emmanuel lives there as he is the main reason I’m going! I’ve always lived in London so I think moving far away to shake things up will be a really formative experience. Who knows where it will ultimately take me – a few years ago I wouldn’t have dared to dream that I would end up moving to New York!
Describe your most inspiring experience - musical or non-musical.
I’m not sure if I can pinpoint just one experience, but I’m constantly searching for inspiration in day to day life. I’m often inspired by literature and use this when performing, whether it be poetry or tragedies or surrealism, I can always find imagery to pull from and there are so many universal feelings which translate beautifully into music. Travelling to new places is also something that really inspires me, especially when I can do it through music - having the opportunity to travel to places I never would have thought to go to has been one of the most rewarding things about pursuing a career in harp.
Why do you think music is important?
That’s a big question! For me, the arts are really what give meaning and depth to life. It’s also very therapeutic, music can make sense of the indescribable and I can articulate through music what I find impossible to say with words. I suppose with both classical and non-classical, it’s always music that has an honest point of view that I find most compelling. I’m drawn to composers like Bach, Debussy and Britten whose music is so representative of the worlds they lived in – it can feel like time travel. It’s interesting to see how many current artists are using the time we live in now to manifest their musical voices; it’s great that music is frequently being used as a form of activism in mainstream culture.
Who is your favourite composer and why?
It’s almost impossible to answer, but I think if I could only play one composer’s music for the rest of my life it would probably have to be J.S. Bach. It’s timeless music that says so much about the human experience without needing overt flashiness. I love that Schumann described Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier as “bread and butter” – I think it’s a nice description of how important his oeuvre is. Bach lived in a time where the harp as we know it now didn’t exist, so I can only play transcriptions; but I’m sure he would’ve liked his music on the harp! I’ve recently transcribed the Chromatic Fantasy and it has been a really rewarding process. I could play his music endlessly and still find new things to discover.
Milo is currently in his final year of undergraduate study at the Royal Academy of Music, under the tutelage of Karen Vaughan and Skaila Kanga. He is the harpist for the LGT Young Soloists was Principal Harp for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the European Union Youth Orchestra 2019 Spring Tour.
To read Milo's full biography, click here.