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So, what became of the lyre?

24 Apr 02 - 12:30 PM (#697544)
Subject: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

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?

Signed,

Stumped and Curious


24 Apr 02 - 12:41 PM (#697563)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: IanC

Well, it was also the instrument of choice for West Saxon minstrels and you can get information about it (including instructions for making one here.

Cheers!
Ian


24 Apr 02 - 12:44 PM (#697567)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: IanC

Sorry, somehow missed your link above ... nust have scrolled past it

:-(
Ian


24 Apr 02 - 12:46 PM (#697570)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: masato sakurai

There's Catalogue and Price Listing.

~Masato


24 Apr 02 - 12:52 PM (#697575)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: MMario

here?


24 Apr 02 - 12:57 PM (#697582)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: MMario

The site for the saxon lyre has your tuning information:

" Hucbald's De Harmonica Institutione (ca. 880) contains discussion and an illustration of lyre tablature for the common 6-string lyre along with tuning information. Hucbald is explaining the work of Boethius, and gives his audience an example of how Boethius' musical system would describe their lyres. Thus Hucbald's examples are descriptive rather than prescriptive of the tuning found in his day. He notes that intervals between the strings of the lyre are tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone (Hucbald, 22-23). In modern notation, that tuning maps to C-D-E-F-G-a, or D-E-F#-G-a-b, these being the first six notes of a major scale or, looked at another way, the last three and first three notes of a major scale, or the last note followed by the first five notes of a Dorian scale. "

another attempt at the link to cd's here?


24 Apr 02 - 01:19 PM (#697588)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: bill kennedy

Benjamin Bagby performs with a lyre beautifully, saw him recently doing 'EDDA', have seen his 'Beowulf'. There is no direct tradition, but I think it's reasonable to recite poetry the way he does with lyre accompinament. Today's Irish and Welsh harpists approximate what they think might have been the style, and notation taken down from the playing of O'Carolan and others may certainly have left out some grace notes and flourishes. Check out Bagby here

http://www.earlymusic.org.uk/dirwww/a-com/benjaminbagby.html


24 Apr 02 - 01:19 PM (#697589)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

That's okay, Ian, it's a mistake we all make from time to time, especially in long posts (and I do have a "babbling gene" ;-)). Anyway, do you know any minstrals/musicians who've built and play the lyre?

Masato -- thanks for the links to the "Harp" of David (beautiful instruments, but way out of my price range) and the CD's. When I translate the page and figure out how to order one, I will. It's good to know that the instrument hasn't gone the way of Latin just yet.

I wasn't asking about tuning and such for myself (I have about as much mechanical musical ability as a drunken daddy-long-legs), but just citing the fact that there is hardly any discussion of the lyre as an instrument of choice, compared to the harp, guitar, and banjo, and I was wondering why.


24 Apr 02 - 01:23 PM (#697592)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

Thanks, Bill!

:::Singing::::

"A surfing I will go,
A surfing I will go
Hi-ho the derry oh,
A surfing I will go!"


24 Apr 02 - 01:24 PM (#697596)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

Sorry, MMario, read too fast, and got your name blended together with Masatos...


24 Apr 02 - 01:43 PM (#697610)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: McGrath of Harlow

What distinguishes the lyre from the harp is that the number of notes is very much smaller, so the possibility of playing melody as such is very much restricted.

You still get lyres in African music. And essentially the thumb piano, though it doesn't look much like a lyre, is a sort of lyre. The point being that there are just a few notes which can be played in a pattern.


24 Apr 02 - 07:56 PM (#697874)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Hrothgar

I thought he was jailed for perjury.


24 Apr 02 - 08:11 PM (#697883)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: michaelr

I seem to remember seeing a photo of a Gibson-made lyre from the 1920s or thereabouts. Or am I dreaming?

Michel


24 Apr 02 - 08:57 PM (#697922)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: masato sakurai

Michael, I think it's Gibson's harp guitar.

~Masato


24 Apr 02 - 09:06 PM (#697931)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: michaelr

Well, I'm familiar with the harp guitar but I definitely remember seeing a lyre (the shape is unmistakable). I'd have to look through my back copies of Acoustic Guitar magazine to find it, but I don't have time to do that now.

Cheers,
Michael


24 Apr 02 - 09:23 PM (#697934)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: masato sakurai

I've looked through Walter Carter's Gibson Guitars: 100 Years of an American Icon (General Publishing Group, 1994), and found the lyre mandolin on p. 30. It looks like a lyre and is played like a mandolin.

~Masato


24 Apr 02 - 10:12 PM (#697953)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: michaelr

That's it, Masato! What a weird thing, huh? I'd like to find one of those...

Michael


25 Apr 02 - 06:58 AM (#698143)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: masato sakurai

Photos of Gibson "Lyre Mandolin" are HERE.

~Masato


25 Apr 02 - 07:20 AM (#698150)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: greg stephens

The troble with reviving the lyre is the clothes. Contemporary illustrations show that it is only possible to play one properly if youre wearing a little white frock. And I havent got the nerve or the legs.


25 Apr 02 - 12:14 PM (#698358)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

Okay, here's a question: if a lyre has strings arranged like a harp, but uses the techology of the guitar for sound production, how is a "harp guitar" different from a lyre, the tuning pegs?

And, Michael, I agree -- that harp mandolin looks wierd... like something the set designers for the first season of Star Trek would come up with for Spock to play... ;-)


25 Apr 02 - 12:25 PM (#698369)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

Michael and Masato, here's a question: if lyres have strings arranged like a harp, but a guitar's techology for sound production, isn't "harp guitar" just another word for "lyre"?

And about that lyre mandolin: Looks like something from the first season of Star Trek ;-)

...
...

LOL! Greg! Now there's an image! Might even be a theme for the 2003 Mudcat Calender: "Toga Party"!!


25 Apr 02 - 04:59 PM (#698594)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: michaelr

Well, no, Capri - a harp guitar has a neck/fretboard like a regular guitar, plus additional bass strings that are off the freatboard and attach to an extension of the body which meets the peghead.

Maybe Masato can come up with a photo of a harp guitar, as well.

Michael


25 Apr 02 - 05:21 PM (#698610)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: McGrath of Harlow

The term for a lute with that arrangement is "a theorbo". And here are some pictures.


25 Apr 02 - 05:27 PM (#698618)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: GUEST,hardy har

Compulsive lyre = " No really, I'm a banjo!"


25 Apr 02 - 06:51 PM (#698667)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: masato sakurai

Gibson produced two versions of harp guitar: "R" Harp Guitar and Style "U" Harp-Guitar. ALFRED G. KARNES sang, playing this instrument (CD is HERE).

~Masato


25 Apr 02 - 07:16 PM (#698684)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Chicken Charlie

He was elected President?


26 Apr 02 - 04:31 AM (#698939)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Trevor

I was married to one. Oh, lyre....


26 Apr 02 - 04:33 AM (#698940)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: GUEST,Boab

He was elected Premier of British Columbia, and his name is Gordon Campbell.


26 Apr 02 - 04:59 AM (#698950)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Mark Cohen

A friend of mine has a guitar that looks a bit like the lyre mandolin. I think he got it somewhere in Europe. Next time I'm over on the Kona side I'll take a picture of it and post it on the 'Cat. (My friend's primary instrument, by the way, is the contrabass balalaika. Now there's an instrument!)

The last few posts call to mind something out of a jokebook from my childhood.

John: I have a zither at home.
Bob: Oh, really? Well, I have a brother at home.
John: No, you don't understand. A zither is a sort of a lyre.
Bob: Well, my brother has been known to stretch the truth on occasion.

Aloha,
Mark


26 Apr 02 - 09:21 AM (#699046)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: CapriUni

LOL, Mark! I *used* to have a zither at home, but then I moved...

The way I understznd it, the main difference between zithers and lyres is that in lyres, the strings are longer than the sound box, and it's played vertically, and a zither (and autoharp) are played horizontally.

Also, "zither" is a higher scoring word in Scrabble -- in the plural, you get a 50 point bonus!


25 Apr 13 - 05:55 PM (#3508875)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Weasel

Just found this old thread which is strangely relevant to me at the moment!

I haven't seen a saxon lyre outside the realms of re-enactment and the other lyres seem to be museum pieces.

One of the problems of the lyre is its limited range of notes - the saxon lyre usually has only six strings.

I have built three lyres this week, two Anglo Saxon with six strings and one "folk lyre" with eight strings.

Cheers,

Weasel


26 Apr 13 - 01:15 AM (#3508986)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Sandra in Sydney

Weasel, do you have a pic of your lyre? If you don't have a website or photo website, Joe Offer could post it for you on the Mudcat photo website Send an email to joe (at) mudcat.org with Mudcat photos as the subject.

Google image search on Saxon lyre

sandra

Masato's 2002 link to a pic of the Gibson Lyre Mandolin is out of date. Here's a Google image search on Gibson "Lyre Mandolin"


26 Apr 13 - 04:51 PM (#3509355)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: GUEST,Blandiver

Lyres survived in Africa, one of the most amazing versions of which is the Ethiopian Harp of David:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBXHvAeUJ7M

*

In the West they acquired a bow in the middle-ages and morphed into various bowed-lyres which survived in such instruments as the Talharpa, Juohikko and Crwth, all of which died out in the late 19th Century - and all of which have seen revivals in recent years.


26 Apr 13 - 08:00 PM (#3509397)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Joe Offer

Hi, Weasel -
Yes, I'd be glad to post a photo if you send it to me at joe@mudcat.org (I also post MIDI files and mp3s that are pertinent to discussions).

My impression from Wikipedia is that the strings on an ancient Greek lyrics that were not needed in a chord, were muted with the fingers of one hand, while the other hand strummed the strings with a plectrum. I always thought that the strings of a lyre were plucked, eliminating the need for muting unused strings.

But the lyre was abandoned when Italy adopted the Euro, right?


-Joe-


26 Apr 13 - 08:19 PM (#3509402)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Weasel

Yes Joe, dead right about it being the fault of the Italians!

I've never really liked the "stop and strum" technique, although I've heard it used very effectively, much preferring to pluck the strings like a harp.

I feel, without having done any particular research, that the "stop and strum" presupposes the use of modern chords and that troubles me a little. Of course, we simply don't know what they did - there are no records - I presume they had a power cut or something, or the video tape ran out on the day they played them.

I'll sort out a photograph and send it on to you,

Thanks,

Weasel


27 Apr 13 - 12:40 AM (#3509471)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Joe Offer

What's the tuning on a lyre, Weasel?

-Joe-


27 Apr 13 - 04:47 AM (#3509502)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Weasel

Obviously we can only guess at the tuning they used.

Some tune to a pentatonic scale. I use the first six notes of a standard major scale, in the case of my current instruments, GABCDE. This gives me access to G major and A minor (modal) with the possibility of modulation to C major (with an implied third in the dominant.)

As with any string instrument, tunings can be adjusted to suit your repertoire (although efficient tuning pegs are still evading me - my lyres are a bit of a b***** to tune!)

Cheers,

Weasel


27 Apr 13 - 05:12 AM (#3509510)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Jack Blandiver

the "stop and strum" presupposes the use of modern chords and that troubles me a little. Of course, we simply don't know what they did

Not exactly true. It's clear from the iconography that the 'stop & strum' technique was the standard way of playing lyres from the Semitic Lyre depicted on the tomb of Knumhotpe circa 1900BCE to the so-called Round Lyre depicted on Saxon manuscripts some 3,000 years later. That this technique survives today in the lyre traditions of North Africa is little short of miraculous. Here's Mohamed Gubara, master of the 5-string lyre Tambur using various plucking techniques in a prelude to a virtuoso piece of stopping & strumming:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9ja_hOhTYw

*

One theory of the origins of the bow has it evolving from the long plectra used for lyre strumming. Some of the earliest instruments we see being played with a bow in medieval iconography are lyre-type rather than lute-type (i.e. fiddles) - and it as a bowed instrument (see my post above) that the lyre survived in Northern Europe into modern times. I find it an interesting quirk of design that the lyre depicted on the tomb of Knumhotpe 4,000 years ago has more than a look of the Welsh Crwth about it.


27 Apr 13 - 05:29 AM (#3509514)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Weasel

Hi Jack,

Thanks for that. As I said, I haven't done any particular research on "Stop and strum" - Your post would suggest that maybe I should.

Thanks,

Weasel.


27 Apr 13 - 05:31 AM (#3509515)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Weasel

Jack,

Do you know what tuning they use?

Cheers,

Weasel


27 Apr 13 - 06:22 AM (#3509523)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: GUEST,Blandiver

Not off hand, Weasel. I'll try and figure it out when I get a mo!


27 Apr 13 - 07:55 AM (#3509552)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Rumncoke

The 'Time team' TV program on British TV commissioned the building of a lyre when they discovered one in placed in a kings grave they dug.

It proved difficult as finding a piece of wood with the grain bent in the right way proved impossible. It was conjectured that in the far past branches were grown for the purpose, just as in later times trees were shaped to make the frames of ships.

The instrument was eventually made and played - an exciting sound.


27 Apr 13 - 09:23 AM (#3509570)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: bubblyrat

Was the C F Martin instrument perchance a Lloyd Loare Lyre ?? One hopes so !


27 Apr 13 - 08:16 PM (#3509767)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Little Robyn

I don't know about the ancient lyres but modern ones are well and thriving at places like Rudolf Steiner schools and Anthroposophical communities. Where I worked, at Hohepa Homes here in NZ, there are several people who play in groups and they sound beautiful, especially with the harmonies. The Hohepa players aren't on video but here's an example I found with the type of lyre they play.
The tuning is chromatic, with the 'white notes' on the right side, played with the right hand and the 'black notes' on the left, played by the left hand.
There are also smaller, solid body lyres, called Bordon Lyres (or something like that - I don't know how they spell it and I can't find it on-line) which are tuned to a chord. You need 2 or 3 set up so you just gently strum the one with the chord you need. They sound beautiful, especially when tuned to minor or modal chords - a gentle accompaniment to songs.
I didn't learn the lyre because the technique is different - not plucked like guitar or harp but the finger tips are placed on the strings, then pulled away so the string sounds. It's tricky to explain.
Robyn


27 Apr 13 - 08:27 PM (#3509771)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Little Robyn

Just found a ref that suggests bourdon is the name of drone strings on a hurdy gurdy. That would figure - the bourdon lyres are tuned to one chord and I guess it just 'drones' in the background. So you either need several lyres or you learn songs with only 1 or 2 chords!
Still sounds lovely.
Robyn


27 Apr 13 - 08:45 PM (#3509776)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Little Robyn

Here's an asian lad playing Irish tunes on his lyre. You can see how he holds it and plays it.
Robyn


28 Apr 13 - 04:50 AM (#3509844)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: GUEST,Blandiver

Weasel - the Sudan lyre tuning appears to be:

C, D (tonic), F, G, A

Here's another:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwGUyBn4XKs

This is awesome stuff; I think we're getting the flavour of something pretty ancient here - I can well imagine Caedmon singing his hymn like this!


28 Apr 13 - 11:23 PM (#3510111)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Joe Offer

Click Here to see a lyre crafted by Mudcatter "Weasel."
-Joe-


29 Apr 13 - 02:46 AM (#3510127)
Subject: RE: So, what became of the lyre?
From: Sandra in Sydney

a very elegant shape & very beautiful.

congratulations, Weasel