Flute, Accordion or Clarinet? by Loombe Dawn; Tomlinson Jo; Oldfield Amelia

Flute, Accordion or Clarinet? by Loombe Dawn; Tomlinson Jo; Oldfield Amelia

Author:Loombe, Dawn; Tomlinson, Jo; Oldfield, Amelia
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9780857007667
Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Published: 2015-04-04T16:00:00+00:00


The Harp

Contributors: Rivka Gottlieb, Anna Lockett

(introduction and case vignette) and

Holly Mentzer (harp therapy and case vignettes)


There is something visceral about the sound of the harp. The sound of gut string and resonating wood is not just musical notes; it’s an echo of something ancient, something that resides deep within our collective memory. The first reference we have of the harp is in Egypt 3000 BC in the form of a hunter’s bow (Rensch 1989). In 1500 BC the Asians created a more angled harp, which had the triangular shape that we are more familiar with today. There are a number of references to the lyre in the Bible, particularly in Kings chapter 1, recounting history between 960 and 560 BC; David played his lyre to King Saul, who was said to have a troubled soul, and the music helped calm him. At this point in the states of Israel and Judea the harp was becoming a celebrated musical instrument used by the Jews.

The harp circulated around Persia and India, and there are statues of people playing the harp in temples in India, during the Tamil dynasty around 500 BC. Indeed the harp was the first musical instrument played by the Tamil people, and Tamil Sangam literature from 200 BC documents this type of harp-playing.

The monastic movement used the harp as a vocal accompaniment The spread of the harp mirrored the movement of the monks using the Roman infrastructure: to Ireland and Scotland, where the harp became important in the Gaelic countries. During the sixth century St. Columba stressed that the Christian faith be communicated through poetic hymns and music, including the harp. The triangular ‘harpa’ brought from Eastern Europe was the chosen instrument of the bards, who carried with them the tales and lineage of tribes, noblemen and great battles. Is it any wonder that when the English tried to stamp out Gaelic culture in Ireland from the 16th to the 18th century, the first thing they did was to ban the playing of the harp? For the Irish, the clarsach (Celtic harp) was a symbol of national identity, an icon of the old Gaelic order. Fortunately, some of the old tunes were saved and are still with us today, along with the revival of a particular sound – the modal scales, as well as the jigs, reels and slow airs.

Harpists playing diatonic harps with a single row of strings adapted to increasingly chromatic music by retuning scale patterns or shortening (stopping) strings to produce the desired alteration of pitch (Rensch 1989). The origins of the harp with double or triple rows of strings are vague. The Spanish arpa doble began to appear in paintings and court documents in the 14th century. Claudio Monteverdi scored for the arpa doppia, a harp with at least two rows of strings, in his 1607 opera Orfeo. It was not until the 19th century that Sébastien Érard developed the orchestral classical harp known as the double action harp (1810), which is still used today for classical music.


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