Mudcat Café message #697544 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #46928   Message #697544
Posted By: CapriUni
24-Apr-02 - 12:30 PM
Thread Name: So, what became of the lyre?
Subject: So, what became of the lyre?
In this thread, here: Songwriting 101 (Part 2), we got into a rather long thread drift about that legendary musician Orpheus, and that got me thinking.

Orpheus's instrument of choice (with which he charmed stones and trees to leave their places, and gather 'round to listen to him sing and play) was the lyre.

Often considered a cousin of the harp, the lyre, as I understand it, is closer to the guitar in structure (in a harp, the strings are attacted perpendicular to the sound box, whereas in the lyre, they run over the soundbox and are supported by a bridge). The lyres played by professional musicians generally had bodies built like a wooden box, whereas the lyre that mythology tells us was invented by Hermes had a body made of a tortoise shell with cowhide stretched over it (a banjo's cousin?).

Harps and harpists are everywhere (especially with the celtic revival), but every reference I've come across to the lyre (in the Western world, at least) refers to it as an ancient instrument. Here is one interesting site I found just now that give a pretty good explanation of the harp and the lyre in ancient times: Women's Early Music Instruments - Harp and Lyre.

And I found this site for how to build your own lyre, based on ancient pictures and writings: The Saxon Lyre: History, construction and playing techniques.

But I haven't come across anybody asking where they could buy a lyre, or how to tune one, or tuning techniques, or anything.

So, has the lyre actually gone the way of Latin and Babylonian? From that article on women's instruments that I mentioned above, I gather that the lyre is still being played in Etheopia. Does anyone know if/where I could get a recording of such an instrument?


Stumped and Curious