aeolian harp


aeolian harp
a box with an opening across which are stretched a number of strings of equal length that are tuned in unison and sounded by the wind. Also called aeolian lyre, wind harp.
[1785-95]

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Stringed instrument played by the wind (named for the wind god Aeolus).

It is usually a long, narrow, shallow box with soundholes and 10 or 12 strings strung lengthwise between two bridges. The strings are of the same length but different thicknesses and are all tuned to the same pitch; the wind makes them vibrate in successively higher harmonics. The harp may be hung, or set horizontally under a window sash. The first known Aeolian harp was constructed с 1650 by Athanasius Kircher (1601–1680).

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 (from Aeolus, the Greek god of the winds), a type of box zither on which sounds are produced by the movement of wind over its strings. It is made of a wooden sound box about 1 metre by 13 cm by 8 cm (3 feet by 5 inches by 3 inches) that is loosely strung with 10 or 12 gut strings. These strings are all of the same length but vary in thickness and hence in elasticity. The strings are all tuned to the same pitch. In the wind they vibrate in aliquot parts (i.e., in halves, thirds, fourths…), so that the strings produce the natural overtones (harmonics) of the fundamental note: octave, 12th, second octave, and so on. For a more technical explanation of the phenomenon, see sound: Standing waves (sound).

      The principle of natural vibration of strings by the pressure of the wind has long been recognized. According to legend, King David hung his kinnor (a kind of lyre) above his bed at night to catch the wind, and in the 10th century Dunstan of Canterbury produced sounds from a harp by allowing the wind to blow through its strings.

      The first known Aeolian harp was constructed by Athanasius Kircher (Kircher, Athanasius) and was described in his Musurgia Universalis (1650). The Aeolian harp was popular in Germany and England during the Romantic movement of the late 18th and 19th centuries. Two attempts to devise a keyboard version using a bellows were the anémocorde (1789), invented by Johann Jacob Schnell, and the piano éolien (1837), by M. Isouard. Aeolian harps are also found in China, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Melanesia.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • aeolian harp — n. a box with an opening in it across which gut strings of varying thickness are stretched, tuned in unison: when air blows over them, the strings produce varying harmonies …   English World dictionary

  • Aeolian harp — An aeolian harp (or æolian harp or wind harp) is a musical instrument that is played by the wind. It is named for Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the wind. History Aeolian harps were very popular as household instruments during the Romantic Era …   Wikipedia

  • AEolian harp — Harp Harp (h[aum]rp), n. [OE. harpe, AS. hearpe; akin to D. harp, G. harfe, OHG. harpha, Dan. harpe, Icel. & Sw. harpa.] 1. A musical instrument consisting of a triangular frame furnished with strings and sometimes with pedals, held upright, and… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • AEolian harp — AEolian [AE]*o li*an, a. [L. Aeolius, Gr. ?.] 1. Of or pertaining to [AE]olia or [AE]olis, in Asia Minor, colonized by the Greeks, or to its inhabitants; [ae]olic; as, the [AE]olian dialect. [1913 Webster] 2. Pertaining to [AE]olus, the mythic… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • aeolian harp — noun a harp having strings tuned in unison; they sound when wind passes over them • Syn: ↑aeolian lyre, ↑wind harp • Hypernyms: ↑harp …   Useful english dictionary

  • aeolian harp — /iˌoʊliən ˈhap/ (say ee.ohleeuhn hahp) noun a box over which are stretched a number of strings of equal length, tuned in unison and sounded by the wind; wind harp. Also, aeolian lyre …   Australian English dictionary

  • aeolian harp — noun An open box over which strings are stretched that sound when the wind passes over them Syn: wind harp …   Wiktionary

  • aeolian harp — stringed box shaped musical instrument sounding when wind passes through it, wind harp …   English contemporary dictionary

  • aeolian harp — aeo′lian harp′ n. mad a box with an opening across which are stretched a number of strings of equal length that are tuned in unison and sounded by the wind • Etymology: 1785–95 …   From formal English to slang

  • aeolian harp — noun Date: 1765 a box shaped musical instrument having stretched strings usually tuned in unison on which the wind produces varying harmonics over the same fundamental tone …   New Collegiate Dictionary


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