Offbeat Harpist Elisa Thorn Coaxes the Busy Mind into Deep Listening

Elisa Thorn has spent the last seven years waking up to a tall, spindly tree with coin-shaped leaves outside the window of her house in East Vancouver. Only recently it inspired her song, “Murmur and Hum.” 

As one of a series of live video releases, The Other Side: Live at Afterlife, is a visual EP that recontextualizes the instrumental tracks of the harpist’s sophomore album, HUE. Bright, resounding vocals from Laura Swankey float above the inquisitive, avant-garde workings of Thorn’s harp—a collaboration with intent to bring “deep listening” into a more accessible realm. 

The videos capture live musical improvisation, exquisite lyrics, and unconventional sounds from a Mesopotamian-era instrument, together rupturing the penchant for multi-tasking at once. Both hypnotizing and energizing, Thorn’s music is the sonic representation of intent observation of quiet magic. “Even wood, dead—that is so alive and so magical and full of character.” Thorn leans over the couch to knock on the wooden coffee table. “And the harp is like this physical body of tree that I get to—I hug it!” 

It’s this meditative, mono-focal ethos that Thorn believes can strengthen experience. “When you have everybody in a room listening to music that is live”—her voice lowers through a small smile—“and we’re all having this experience of these musicians being in flow state and the audience becomes involved… for a room of people to be in a flow state of expression is so fucking cool.”

Elisa Thorn and Laura Swankey perform at Studio Full Bloom (Vancouver) on December 22. The Other Side: Live at Afterlife is out December 25 on Spotify.