Harps and Harpists

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9780253212092: Harps and Harpists

Beautifully illustrated with more than 130 photographs and drawings, this book surveys the progress of the harp from antiquity to the present day -- from the simple bow-like early harp to the gleaming modern pedal harp, most recently equipped with the refinements of electronic sound.

Part I considers the harps of the ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Cycladic peoples, those of the fabled Scythians, and traditional instruments still played in Burma and Afghanistan. Part II presents the non-pedal harp in the Western world, from early in the Christian era to the 20th-century. Examples from art and literature are discussed, along with extant early harps and some important harpists and their music. Part III traces the development of the pedal harp over the last 300 years. Famous performers, teachers, and harps are highlighted. The book concludes with information on the modern study of the harp, on harp societies, conferences and competitions, and on the burgeoning repertoire of harp musi

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Review:

This book could well be subtitled "everything you ever wanted to know about the harp, but didn't know enough to ask." It's all here, from the birth of the harp in ancient times (harps, generally shaped more or less like a J, with one side open, are pictured in artworks dating back several millennia) through its development--acquiring the column, or "forepillar" that makes it three-sided--in medieval Europe; from the first pedal harps to the computerized Camac "memory" harp. Roslyn Rensch, a professor of harp, addresses everything from Welsh bards and that aristocratic harpist Marie Antoinette to the late-20th-century return to interest in various small folk harps and Andreas Vollenweider and his electronically enhanced instruments.

This is the paperback edition of a book originally published in 1989. It is lavishly illustrated (the picture credits run to five pages) and exhaustively footnoted. Although Harps and Harpists is certainly written with a rather narrow core audience in mind--readers who are involved personally or professionally with harps--it is quite readable. It should also interest readers who are curious about the social history of ethnic Celtic societies in which the harp played a significant cultural part, and of 18th-century France. --Sarah Bryan Miller

From the Publisher:

Praise for the first edition: "The harp world is deeply indebted to Roslyn Rensch and her tireless scholarly efforts to publish informative documentation about the harp....This book is a must for the library of anyone interested in the harp and certainly of every harpist." --American String Teacher

"Rensch's literary style is lucid and purposelyy unadorned in order to make her text readily comprehensible to both the scholar and the general reader. For her clear elucidation of the many details of her subject she is to be commended. Moreover, being an art historian as well as a musician, she has produced a scholarly and humanistic work." --Notes

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Roslyn Rensch
Published by Indiana University Press (1998)
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