Tuesday, May 14, 2013

aeolian harp

Aeolian harp

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
An Aeolian harp (æolian harp or wind harp) is a musical instrument that is played by the wind. It is named after Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the wind. The traditional Aeolian harp is essentially a wooden box including a sounding board, with strings stretched lengthwise across two bridges. It is placed in a slightly opened window where the wind can blow across the strings to produce sounds. The strings can be made of different materials (or thicknesses) and all be tuned to the same pitch, or identical strings can be tuned to different pitches. Besides being the only strung instrument played solely by the wind, the Aeolian harp is the only stringed instrument that plays solely harmonic frequencies.
The Aeolian harp - already known in the ancient world – was first described by Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680) in his book Phonurgia nova (1673). It became popular as a household instrument during the Romantic Era, and Aeolian harps are still hand-crafted today. (For example, see the external link below to Greg Joly's website featuring a variety of recordings and images of contemporary Aeolian harp designs). Some are now made in the form of monumental metal sound sculptures located on the roof of a building or a windy hilltop.  Installation artist Mario Ciccioli, inventor of the Aeolian harp, in Tuscania (VT) Year: 2006 The quality of sound is dependant on many factors, including the length, gauge(s), and type of strings, the character of the wind, and the material of the resonating body. Metal framed instruments with no soundboard produce a music very different to that produced by wind harps with wooden sound boxes and sound boards. There is no percussive aspect to the sound like that produced by a wind chime; rather crescendos and decrescendos of harmonic frequencies are played in rhythm to the winds. Their vibrant timbres produce an etheric, almost mystical music that many people find alludes to higher realms.



von Karman vortex street
The harp is driven by the von Karman vortex street effect. The motion of the wind across a string causes perioding vortex downstream, and this alternating vortex causes the string to vibrate. Lord Rayleigh first solved the mystery of the aeolian harp in a paper published in the Philosophy Magazine.[1] The effect can sometimes be observed in overhead utility lines, fast enough to be heard or slow enough to be seen. A stiff rod will perform; a non-telescoping automobile radio antenna can be a dramatic exhibitor. And of course the effect can happen in other media; in the anchor line of a ship in a river, for example. This music comes from an Aeolian Harp owned by Michael Lowe and built by Robert Valkenburgh. The sounds are made by the wind moving across strings. The photograph and recording was made by Xan Phillips at Stoney Cross in the New Forest, (UK Autumn 2009)

Aeolian harps in literature and music


Aeolian harps are featured in at least two Romantic-era poems, "The Eolian Harp" and "Dejection, an Ode", both by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In William Heinesen's novel The Lost Musicians set in Tórshavn, Kornelius Isaksen takes his three sons to a little church where, in the tower, they sit listening to the 'capriciously varying sounds of an Aeolian harp', which leads the boys into a lifelong passion for music. A lyre is mentioned in Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" which is another name for an Aeolian Harp. The Aeolian harp is also mentioned in Shelley poem "Mutability." Aeolian harps are mentioned in Thomas Hardy's "The Trumpet-Major" (1880) and "The Mayor of Casterbridge" (1886), and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita (1955). An aeolian harp is featured in Ian Fleming's 1964 children's novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to make a cave seem haunted. El arpa eólica (The Aeolian Harp) is an alternate history novelette written by Óscar Esquivias. It was originally published in 2011 by Fábulas de Albión. The novelette depicts the life of Berlioz as a young student in Paris.

Aeolian harp made by Burke Jam
film by Kier Atherton & Caitlin Hofmeister
sound by Kier Atherton


Henry Cowell's Aeolian Harp (1923) was one of the first piano pieces to feature extended techniques on the piano which included plucking and sweeping the pianist's hands directly across the strings of the piano. The Etude in A flat major for piano (1836) by Frédéric Chopin (Étude Op. 25, No. 1 (Chopin)) is sometimes called the "Aeolian Harp" etude, a nickname given it by Robert Schumann. The piece features a delicate, tender, and flowing melody in the fifth finger of the pianist's right hand, over a background of rapid pedaled arpeggios. One of Sergei Lyapunov's 12 études d'exécution transcendante, Op.11 No.9, is named by the author "Harpes éoliennes" (aeolian harps). In this virtuoso piece, written between 1897 and 1905, the tremolo accompaniment seems to imitate the sounding of the instrument.

Young Thomas at work on his harp.
In 1972, Chuck Hancock and Harry Bee recorded a giant 30-foot-tall (9.1 m) Aeolian harp designed and built by 22-year-old Thomas Ward McCain on a hilltop in Chelsea, Vermont. United released their double LP entitled The Wind Harp - Song From The Hill. (An excerpt of this recording appears in the movie The Exorcist.)[citation needed] In the spirit of this, in 2003 an Aeolian harp was constructed at Burning Man. Australian artist, composer and sound sculptor Alan Lamb has created and recorded several very large scale aeolian harps. On his album Dis (1976), Jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek used recordings of an Aeolian harp which was situated at a Norwegian fjord as a background sound. British producer Bonobo samples an aeolian harp on his album Black Sands. Builders of pipe organs have included stops intended to imitate the sound and timbre of the aeolian harp. German builders were the first to include such a stop from the 1820s. The Aeolian Harp stop is not a harp—it is simply a rank of pipes using a low wind pressure and voiced to imitate the sound of the real instrument. It is therefore classified as a 'string' stop. These stops are amongst the softest found on pipe organs.


  1. ^ Lord Rayleigh, Aeolian Tones, Philosophical Magazine series 6 1915

External links

The Chicago Art Institute's School two-tier roof installation [(scroll down, klik) http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesb1.html#anchor15286 http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYj.html hexagrams Baffin Island Canada [1] (interactive, fan-controlled wind in art school gallery controlled [2] http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYk.html details http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYp.html; tuned strand and remote TRAM http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYs.html, http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYt.html] [related Meadow Piano "instrument" http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYm.html http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYn.html http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesc1.html/#anchor33428] [3]; [Chord Draft Monitor http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYu.html] [Leif Brush curriculum vitae http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/emeritus.htm] [harp-like evolution: Terrain Instruments (defined) http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/terraininstruments.html]; original Terrain Instrument's 1975 site [4] Terrain Instrument audio documentation [5] [intersecting wires over a wintry strawberry field http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYf.html http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesYONYo.html http://www.d.umn.edu/~lbrush/lbarchivesb1.html#anchor186420];
  • Stoney Cross 2 - an example piece of music made on an aeolian harp.
  • windharfe.m3u - a livestream of an aeolian harp at the University of Ulm (Germany).
  • A website featuring recordings and images of a variety of wooden Aeolian harps designed and built by Greg Joly. [6]
The Aeolian Harp
The Aeolian HarpThe Aeolian Harp (from Aeolus, the fabled keeper of the winds) consists of a number of gut strings (of different thickness' but tuned in unison) on a wooden resonant box about three feet long, which can be attached to a tree or a building or fitted along the length of a window ledge.
The blowing of the wind sets the strings in vibration in such a way that their harmonics are heard, rather than their  fundamental note, and this gives a chordal impression - the harmonics produced varying according to the thickness of the strings and the velocity of the wind. The effect is similar to that often heard from telegraph wires, but with the added resonance of a hollow sounding board, and the complexity of a distinct choral suggestion.
The Englishman Robert Bloomfield was in the earliest years of the nineteenth century making and selling Aeolian harps in London. They seem to have been very popular in those days of romantic landscape gardening with its rustic summerhouses and ruins.
German names for this instrument are Aolsharfe, Windharfe (windharp), Wetterharfe (weather harp or atmosphere harp) and Geisterharfe (spiritharp).