The Aeolian Harp or “Wind Harp”
The Aeolian harp has strings like a traditional harp, but the key difference is that there is no finger plucking involved. Instead, aeolian harps, or wind harps as they’re sometimes known, are played using air. In a similar way to wind chimes, an aeolian harp can either be placed on a windowsill or outside. As the wind passes across the strings, it causes them to vibrate. The sound this creates is very different to a harp!
The music an aeolian harp makes has an eerie, almost spine-tingling quality to it. As you listen, it can be hard to stop the hairs on the backs of your neck from rising. This unique sound, coupled with the fact that these harps are often very beautiful, makes them perfect candidates for art installations.
Singing Ringing Tree
A particularly beautiful example is one in the shape of a tree. It is called the singing ringing tree, and it sits on a hill overlooking Burnley in Lancashire. It not only looks beautiful, but it also serenades you with ghostly-sounding music. It’s no wonder it won several awards; it is a truly unique creation.
You can find another fabulous example of this amazing instrument in San Francisco. On a pier near the bay is a huge harp designed by Doug Hollis. The wind coming in makes this instrument sing! It’s not correct to say you can enjoy listening to it, though. The comments on YouTube explain why. “Sounds like the harp of the sirens luring sailors to their doom”, said one commentator.
It is true that the music the harp makes is more than a little scary, but it is impressive. It’s definitely something to listen to at least once in your life. Maybe keep an eye out for ghosts while you do, though!
Now that we live in a world of 24-hour television, music streaming and YouTube, we might imagine we all know a lot about music. So if you didn’t already, now you know what an Aeolian Harp is.
After all, we can listen to Mozart, Mendelssohn or Motörhead any time, day or night. We can watch orchestras perform and even watch buskers perform on a street on the other side of the world. That’s why it can come as a surprise when we come across an instrument we’ve never heard of before like this instrument played by the wind 24 hours, 7 days a week!