Jew's Harp

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jew’s Harp


(in Russian, vargan), self-sounding reed instrument, either a plate made of wood, bone, or metal or a metal bow with a reed in the middle. When played, it is pressed to or squeezed by the teeth; the reed is pinched by a finger, thread, or stick. The mouth serves as a moving resonator; the tones of the overtone series needed to play the melody are picked out by changing the shape and size of the mouth cavity. The quietness and small range—a fourth or fifth—of the Jew’s harp limits its repertoire to short dance melodies and traditional tunes. The Jew’s harp is found among many peoples of Middle and Southeast Asia and Oceania (plate-shaped) and also Europe, Central Asia, and Africa (bow-shaped); it has various national names. A perfected Jew’s harp, the aura, was popular in Europe in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Versions of the Jew's harp can be found in many parts of the world, but for its manufacture you have to turn to a handful of streets in the Black Country.
It was in Club Buildings (now Stanford Drive), Shell Corner and Hawes Lane that the jew's harp makers clustered, as well as in the hamlet of Newtown over in Netherton.
By the middle of the 19th century, Leonard Cohen has experimented with the Jew's however, the Jew's harp makers were beginning to migrate from Staffordshire to Birmingham, which, I imagine, offered the economies of scale for greater productivity.
David Troman's sons, like good apprentices to the trade, then fanned out across the town, establishing their own Jew's harp workshops in Heneage Street, Great Brook Street and Avon Street.
Versions of the Jew's harp can be found in many ' parts of the world, but for its manufacture you have to turn to a handful of streets in the Black Country
We have a number of references in literature of the seventeenth century that mention an association between Jew's harps and the fair.
The evidence for Donald McIlmichall's ability is limited to the comment that he played Jew's harps, with no indication of his skill.
(63) Frederick Crane, 'Food, Drink and Jew's Harps', Vierundzwanzigsteljahrsschrift der Internationalen Maultrommelvirtuosengenossen-schaft, 1 (1982), 58-60.
Prior to the nineteenth century, written references to the Jew's harp are scarce and mention of named players is extremely rare.
Amongst all the thousands of trial documents recorded in England and Scotland between 1590 and 1825, twenty-four trials have the distinction of mentioning the musical instrument known as the Jew's harp or Jew's trump (often simply 'trump', especially in modern Scottish usage) (Figure 1).
Finding information about popular musical instruments is challenging, since writers did not usually consider something as trivial as a Jew's harp worthy of serious comment.
Almost twenty percent of the text of Plate's book is taken up with an exhaustive study of the terms used for the Jew's harp. This has long been a much-discussed and problematic area, and the author's treatment has succeeded in drawing together a great deal of information and linguistic data that has previously been scattered throughout a large number of publications.