The Jews-Harp in Britain and Ireland (Hardback) book cover

The Jews-Harp in Britain and Ireland

By Michael Wright

© 2015 – Routledge

240 pages

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Hardback: 9781472414137
pub: 2015-12-04
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About the Book

The jews-harp is a distinctive musical instrument of international importance, yet it remains one of those musical instruments, like the ocarina, kazoo or even the art of whistling, that travels beneath the established musical radar. The story of the jews-harp is also part of our musical culture, though it has attracted relatively little academic study. Britain and Ireland played a significant role in the instrument’s manufacture and world distribution, particularly during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. Drawing upon previously unknown written sources and piecing together thousands of fragments of information spanning hundreds of years, Michael Wright tells the story of the jews-harp’s long history in the Britain and Ireland. Beginning with an introductory chapter describing the instrument, Part One looks at the various theories of its ancient origin, how it came to be in Europe, terminology, and its English name. Part Two explores its commercial exploitation and the importance of the export market in the development of manufacturing. Part Three looks the instrument’s appearance and use in art, literature and the media, finally considering the many players who have used the instrument throughout its long history.

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Part I Theories: Theorists; Origins; The name. Part II Commercial Exploitation: Imports and distribution; Makers; Exports. Part III Cultural Aspects: Art, architecture and mass-media; The jews-harp in Popular culture; Players. Conclusion; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Michael Wright is a leading performer, historian and enthusiast of the jews-harp in the United Kingdom. His research into the social history of the instrument is ensuring that the full scope of the jews-harp’s contribution to trade and entertainment is recorded. Often asked the question ’why is it called a jews-harp?’ and ’where does it come from?’ he began what has become a life-long quest to draw together the various fragments of information available. He has written articles for the Galpin Society Journal, the Folk Music Journal and the International Jews Harp Society Journal exploring various aspects of the instrument’s history. Parallel and complementary to his research has been the exploration of the possibilities of the jews-harp as a musical instrument. These two strands - musical possibilities and social history - continue to fascinate him.

About the Series

SOAS Musicology Series

Series editor: Keith Howard, SOAS, University of London, UK

The study of the world’s many and diverse music cultures has become an important part of the discipline of musicology. Often termed ‘ethnomusicology’, the resulting studies share the fundamental recognition that music is cherished by every society in the world. Like language, music is a universal means of individual and cultural expression. It is also infinitely varied. Music in any society has intrinsic value in its own right, and can tell us much about the culture in which it developed. The core of the SOAS Musicology Series comprises studies of different musics, analysed in the contexts of the societies of which they are part, and exploring repertories, performance practice, musical instruments, and the roles and impacts of individual composers and performers. Studies which integrate music with dance, theatre or the visual arts are encouraged, and contextualised studies of music within the Western art canon are not excluded.

Reflecting current ethnomusicological theory and practice, the editors recognize the value of interdisciplinary and collaborative research. Volumes may utilize methodologies developed in anthropology, sociology, linguistics and psychology to explore music; they may seek to create a dialogue between scholars and musicians; or they may primarily be concerned with the evaluation of historical documentation. Monographs that explore contemporary and popular musics, the effect of globalization on musical production, or the comparison of different music cultures are also welcomed.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / Ethnomusicology
MUSIC / Musical Instruments / General