Monday, May 14, 2018
The Jew's Harp
The Jew's Harp, a musical instrument with ancient roots, is held against the teeth or lips, and plucked with the fingers and is known in many cultures of the world, and ancient roots, attest to the magical essence of this simple instrument.
The earliest known written mention of the Jew's harp was in 1595, in England. Prior to that it was called Jew's trump. However, there is no indication that the origin was connected with Judaism or the Jewish people and the name is probably derived from some other word. It is also sometimes referred to as a juice harp because of the drooling that often happens when it is played by amateurs. It's also known as a jaw harp.
The instrument is found all over the world: Europe, Asia and the Pacific, except Australia. It is found everywhere in Russia. Bamboo and wooden types are found in the Pacific, SE Asia and in China except in Northern China. Through European colonization, the bow-shaped metal Jew's Harp was introduced into the Americas, Africa and Australia mainly by the Dutch and English for North America.
In Siberia and Mongolia, the Jew's Harp was used to both induce trance and to heal the sick. Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer is said to have used the Jew's Harp therapeutically in psychotherapy.
The player holds the frame to his mouth, which forms a resonance cavity, and activates the instrument’s tongue by either plucking it with the fingers. The notes produced are limited and the tongue produces only one pitch; altering the shape of the mouth cavity isolates the individual harmonics that are components of the tongue’s sound.
The instrument is fairly easy to learn to play; you can produce the first sounds in a few minutes and in half an hour one can use the sounds for rhythmical play. But, to get really good takes practice the same as any musical instrument. Although it is possible to hit one's teeth with the instrument, when playing the normal way nothing happens to the teeth.