The Jews-Harp in Britain and Ireland  book cover
1st Edition

The Jews-Harp in Britain and Ireland

ISBN 9781472414137
Published July 18, 2016 by Routledge
240 Pages

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Book Description

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.

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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.