Jew's Harp

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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.


References in periodicals archive ?
Like many other local trades, such as nail or chain making, the manufacture of Jew's harps stayed in the family.
By the 1930s the Tromans no longer had Jew's harps to themselves; by then they were being manufactured in Germany and Czechoslovakia too.
The Birmingham-made Jew's harps fell silent in 1950.
OF all the unconventional instruments introduced into pop music in the Sixties - harpsichord and sitar, dulcimer and mellotron - one of the most unusual is surely the Jew's harp.
The files of the Dictionary of Traded Goods, 1550--1800, in preparation at the University of Wolverhampton, provide a rare insight into the trade in the instrument in England, with references to Jew's harps or Jew's trumps spanning the late sixteenth to the late eighteenth centuries.
The circumstances surrounding the individual players of Jew's harps who were involved in the trials that we shall consider here range from the bizarre to the downright horrific.
An idea of the instrument that she might have played comes from a find at Fast Castle, Berwickshire (Figure 7), designated as type 'Kransen' by Gjermund Kolltveit from Norway in his new classification system for Jew's harps (Figure 8).
28) There are a number of extant images of pedlars selling Jew's harps, and while these are all from the Continent, it seems plausible that Jew's harps were also stock-in-trade items for pedlars in Britain.
Here it is surprising that although the author briefly discusses the na-khi (of northern China) practice of playing three lamellate Jew's harps at once, each of a different pitch, she does not mention the remarkable technique of the Tyrolean Jew's harp players (which survived until almost the middle of this century), who played two differently tuned bow-shaped instruments simultaneously, one held in each hand.
For example, in connection with Molln (at one time the place that supplied most of the Jew's harps in Western Europe) and its long, interesting connection with the instrument, she has omitted any reference to the most comprehensive study of the subject ever to appear--Gustav Otruba's "Die Maultrommeln und ihre Erzeugung zu Molln: Von der Zunft zur Werkgenossenschaft" (Oberosterreichische Heimatblatter 40, Heft 1 [1986]: 59--94).
Karl Eulenstein, the last truly great Western European Jew's harp virtuoso, died on 8 January 1890, at the age of 88.
In 1981, for the first time in at least 150 years, two of Albrechtsberger's concertos were performed--by the Jew's harp player Fritz Mayr, accompanied by the Munchener Kammerorchester, conducted by Hans Stadlmair (they were also recorded by RCA [RL 30787]).