The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps can be made and played in various ways, standing or sitting, and in orchestras or concerts. Its most common form is triangular in shape and made of wood. Some have multiple rows of strings and pedal attachments.
Ancient depictions of harps were recorded in Mesopotamia, Persia (now Iraq and Iran) and Egypt, and later in India and China. By medieval times harps had spread across Europe. Harps were found across the Americas where it was a popular folk tradition in some areas. Distinct designs also emerged from the African continent. Harps have symbolic political traditions and are often used in logos, including in Ireland.
Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa; other variants defunct in Europe and Asia have been used by folk musicians in the modern era.
The earliest harps and lyres were found in Sumer, 3500 BCE, and several harps were excavated from burial pits and royal tombs in Ur. The oldest depictions of harps without a forepillar can be seen adjacent to the Near East, in the wall paintings of ancient Egyptian tombs in the Nile Valley, which date from as early as 3000 BCE. These murals show an arched harp, an instrument that closely resembles the hunter's bow, without the pillar that we find in modern harps.The Chang flourished in Persia in many forms from its introduction, about 4000 BCE, until the 17th century.
Mesolithic era paintings from Bhimbetka show harp playing. An arched harp made of wooden brackets and metal strings is depicted on an Indus seal. The works of the Tamil Sangam literature describe the harp and its variants, as early as 200 BCE. Variants were described ranging from 14 to 17 strings, and the instrument used by wandering minstrels for accompaniment. Iconographic evidence of the yaal appears in temple statues dated as early as 600 BCE One of the Sangam works, the Kallaadam recounts how the first yaaḻ harp was inspired by an archer's bow, when he heard the musical sound of its twang.
Another early South Asian harp was the ancient veena, not to be confused with the modern Indian veena which is a type of lute. Some Samudragupta gold coins show of the mid-4th century CE show (presumably) the king Samudragupta himself playing the instrument. The ancient veena survives today in Burma, in the form of the saung harp still played there.
As European harps evolved to play more complex music, a key consideration was some way to facilitate the quick changing of a string's pitch to be able to play more chromatic notes. By the Baroque period in Italy and Spain, more strings were added to allow for chromatic notes in more complex harps. In Germany in the second half of the 17th century, diatonic single-row harps were fitted with manually turned hooks that fretted individual strings to raise their pitch by a half step. In the 18th century, a link mechanism was developed connecting these hooks with pedals, leading to the invention of the single-action pedal harp.
The first primitive form of pedal harps was developed in the Tyrol region of Austria. Jacob Hochbrucker was the next to design an improved pedal mechanism around 1720, followed in succession by Krumpholtz, Naderman, and the Erard company, who came up with the double mechanism, in which a second row of hooks was installed along the neck, capable of raising the pitch of a string by either one or two half steps. While one course of European harps led to greater complexity, resulting largely in the modern pedal harp, other harping traditions maintained simpler diatonic instruments which survived and evolved into modern traditions.
In the Americas, harps are widely but sparsely distributed, except in certain regions where the harp traditions are very strong. Such important centeres include Mexico, the Andean region, Venezuela, and Paraguay. They are derived from the Baroque harps that were brought from Spain during the colonial period. Detailed features vary from place to place.
The Paraguayan harp is that country's national instrument, and has gained a worldwide reputation, with international influences alongside folk traditions. They have around 36 strings, are played with fingernails, and with a narrowing spacing and lower tension than modern Western harps, and have a wide and deep soundbox that tapers to the top.
The harp is also found in Argentina, though in Uruguay it was largely displaced in religious music by the organ by the end of the 18th century. The harp is historically found in Brazil, but mostly in the south of the country.
The Andean harp (Spanish/Quechua: arpa), also known as the Peruvian harp, or indigenous harp, is widespread among peoples living in the highlands of the Andes: Quechua and Aymara, mainly in Peru, and also in Bolivia and Ecuador. It is relatively large, with a significantly increased volume of the resonator box, which gives basses a special richness. It usually accompanies love dances and songs, such as huayno. One of the most famous performers on the Andean harp was Juan Cayambe (Pimampiro Canton, Imbabura Province, Ecuador)
Mexican jarocha harp music of Veracruz has also gained some international recognition, evident in the popularity of "La Bamba".[original research?] The arpa jarocha is typically played while standing. In southern Mexico (Chiapas), there is a very different indigenous style of harp music.
A number of types of harps are found in Africa, predominantly not of the three-sided frame-harp type found in Europe. A number of these, referred to generically as African harps, are bow or angle harps, which lack forepillars joining the neck to the body.
A number of harp-like instruments in Africa are not easily classified with European categories. Instruments like the West African kora and Mauritanian ardin are sometimes labeled as "spike harp", "bridge harp", or harp lute since their construction includes a bridge which holds the strings laterally, vice vertically entering the soundboard.
While lyres and zithers have persisted in the Middle East, most of the true harps of the region have become extinct, though some are undergoing initial revivals. The Turkish çeng was a nine-string harp in the Ottoman Empire which became extinct at the end of the 17th century, but has undergone some revival and evolution since the late 20th century. A similar harp, the changi survives in the Svaneti region of Georgia.
The harp largely became extinct in East Asia by the 17th century; around the year 1000, harps like the vajra began to replace prior[clarification needed] harps. A few examples survived to the modern era, particularly Myanmar's saung-gauk, which is considered the national instrument in that country. Though the ancient Chinese konghou has not been directly resurrected, the name has been revived and applied to a modern newly invented instrument based on the Western classical harp, but with the strings doubled back to form two notes per string, allowing advanced techniques such as note-bending.
The concert harp is a technologically advanced instrument, particularly distinguished by its use of "pedals", foot-controlled devices which can alter the pitch of given strings, making it fully chromatic and thus able to play a wide body of classical repertoire. The pedal harp contains seven pedals that each affect the tuning of all strings of one pitch-class. The pedals, from left to right, are D, C, B on the left side and E, F, G, A on the right. Pedals were first introduced in 1697 by Jakob Hochbrucker of Bavaria. In 1811 these were upgraded to the "double action" pedal system patented by Sébastien Erard.
The addition of pedals broadened the harp's abilities, allowing its gradual entry into the classical orchestra, largely beginning in the 19th century. The harp played little or no role in early classical music (being used only a handful of times by major composers such as Mozart and Beethoven), and its usage by Cesar Franck in his Symphony in D minor (1888) was described as "revolutionary" despite some body of prior classical usage. In the 20th century, the pedal harp found use outside of classical music, entering musical comedy films in 1929 with Arthur "Harpo" Marx, jazz with Casper Reardon in 1934, the Beatles 1967 single "She's Leaving Home", and several works by Björk which featured harpist Zeena Parkins. In the early 1980s, Swiss harpist Andreas Vollenweider exposed the concert harp to large new audiences with his popular new age/jazz albums and concert performances.
In the modern era, there is a family of mid-size harps, generally with nylon strings, and optionally with partial or full levers but without pedals. They range from two to six octaves, and are plucked with the fingers using a similar technique to the pedal harp. Though these harps evoke ties to historical European harps, their specifics are modern, and they are frequently referred to broadly as "Celtic harps" due to their region of revival and popular association, or more generically as "folk harps" due to their use in non-classical music, or as "lever harps" to contrast their modifying mechanism with the larger pedal harp.
The modern Celtic harp began to appear in the early 19th century in Ireland, contemporary with the dying-out of earlier forms of Gaelic harp. Dublin pedal harp maker John Egan developed a new type of harp which had gut strings and semitone mechanisms like an orchestral pedal harp; it was small and curved like the historical cláirseach or Irish harp, but its strings were of gut and the soundbox was much lighter. In the 1890s a similar new harp was also developed in Scotland as part of a Gaelic cultural revival. In the mid-20th century Jord Cochevelou developed a variant of the modern Celtic harp which he referred to as the "Breton Celtic harp"; his son Alan Stivell was to become the most influential Breton harper, and a strong influence in the broader world of the Celtic harp. 041b061a72