The Harp: history, prestige and present

The harp has long been the most elegant and beloved musical instrument. Its resonant sound contributes to health, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. It was loved not only by the Irish (after whom it was named – Irish harp), but also by the British and other northern nations during the Middle Ages, which is evident from their laws and from every passage in their history that has the least allusions.

Owning a harp was a matter of prestige

Owning a harp was one of the three things it took for people to present themselves as a gentleman and a lady. Playing the harp meant being a member of a select circle of people who knew how to reach the hearts of others with this instrument and their music.

Marie Antoinette played the harp

When the young Austrian Archduchess Marie Antoinette came to the French court in 1770, she brought with her the harp – an instrument that had long been considered amateur and tied exclusively to the salons of well-educated aristocrats. Thanks to the future queen, who practiced playing the harp every day, this instrument experienced an unprecedented renaissance and popularity, which led to the creation of an extensive repertoire after 1760. Namely, for many artists of the Middle Ages, as well as humanism and the Renaissance, King David was an inspiration. He was very often depicted in paintings and sculptures playing, with a different look of the instrument. Somewhere the instrument would look like a lyre, somewhere on a zither, and somewhere on today’s harp.

Harfin’s sound contributes to health, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being

History of the harp

Throughout its millennial history, the harp has been synonymous with the deep, mystical, contact of man with the light of the divine world. Among the Sumerians, the harp was “used during the utterance of the prophecies of the high priest.” We find similar use among the ancient Jews. In the history of music, the story of David playing the harp (lyre) to calm Saul’s madness is considered one of the most famous examples of musical exorcism. In ancient Greece, the harp, or lyre, was associated with the cult of Apollo, the god of prophecy, healing, music, archery, and the sun. Numerous examples speak of harp music used to realize Apollonian ideals. Depending on the era, its application varied. In the period between the first centuries of the new era until the first years of the Enlightenment, the harp did not notice significant improvement in Europe, due to the ascetic spirit of Christianity. At first glance, it seems paradoxical: angels are depicted playing the harp, and only a few harps from medieval Western Europe have survived. Ireland, a country that did not suffer such a strong influence from the Inquisition, nurtured the harp as its national instrument because that instrument is an integral part of Celtic culture. The Renaissance opened the door to a new spirituality. The first operas that speak of the unhappy love of Orpheus and Eurydice contributed to the attention of the harp (lyre) being drawn after several centuries. Favorable conditions for development were created, so that at the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th century we came across harps with a triple string of strings, and almost a century later a diatonic harp was built, the basis of the modern harp.

In ancient Greece, the harp, or lyre, was associated with the cult of Apollo

Today’s look of the harp

There is a pillar on the base, through the inside of which pass the levers that connect the pedals to the upper part of the stamping mechanism. On the opposite side of the column is the sloping arm of the frame called the resonator. The wires are placed longitudinally, and their upper end is tied to metal pins, screwed into a wooden neck, which forms the upper, curved side of the frame. Unlike the piano, the harp is tuned by the pimp himself before playing, with a special key on the pins. Wires are usually made of hoses, or more recently of nylon. In the bridge, which connects the resonator and the column, there are movable pulleys with two small wedges: each wire passes between the wedges of two pulleys and when, pressing the pedal, the pulley rotates, its wedges press the wire, shorten its sound length and raise its tone . Arrangement of pedals in the harp stand. Celtic harps have pedals instead of pedals, which have the same function as pedals. The harp has 46-48 strings, and in order for the performer to cope among these numerous strings, all C-strings are colored red and all F-strings blue.

The harp has 46-48 strings. All C wires are colored red and all F are blue

The sound of a harp

The sound of the harp is rich and noble, but of little strength and penetration, so that it is best expressed in solo performance or solo episodes in an orchestra. Only the glissando, which is possible by quickly pulling over a large number of strings, often with both hands, can break through the thicker sound of the orchestra. Thanks to the rather long sound of the strings (mostly longer), the harp is extremely suitable as a chord instrument, especially for the performance of arpeggios, which are named after this instrument. It can often be found as an accompaniment to a melodic instrument or voice.


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