Posted by Dan on 2/8/2014 to
The Aeolian harp is named after Aeolus, the Greek god of the wind, because only the wind plays this instrument. These harps are similar to wind chimes in this way, but where wind chimes tinkle randomly, Aeolian harps produce a harmonious sound referred to as chanting. They are made up of a box and sounding board with strings stretched along it.
Aeolian harps have been around for centuries, at least as early as 6 B.C. in Greece. The harps complemented the famously dark Grecian poetry. As far as historians can tell, Aeolian harps disappeared out of culture for centuries, revived during Renaissance by artists and musicians. The earliest written account of Aeolian harps appeared in "Phonurgia nova," which was published by Athanasius Kircher in 1673. The harps started becoming popular fixtures in buildings.
By the Romantic Era they were commonplace in households. Building Aeolian harps became an art amongst craftsmen because the sounds of the harp altered with the length of the strings, the size of the harp and the type of the wood. Famous poets, such as William Wordsworth, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Henry David Thoreau, received inspiration by listening to these melodies. Though the invention of electronic sound dampened enthusiasm for these instruments, the harps were never entirely displaced.
Now Aeolian harps have an enthusiastic, though small, following. Often they are used as lawn ornamentation, much like wind chimes. The craftsmanship has only improved, making these instruments not only pleasant to the auditory senses, but beautiful and sculpture-like. Aeolian harps are also slowly finding their way into public parks and gardens for the enjoyment of all.