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The Jew's harp, also known as the jaw harp, mouth harp, Ozark harp or juice harp, is a lamellophone instrument, which is in the category of plucked idiophones: it consists of a flexible metal or bamboo tongue or reed attached to a frame. The tongue/reed is placed in the performer's mouth and plucked with the finger to produce a note.
Jew's harps may be categorized as idioglot or heteroglot (whether or not the frame and the tine are one piece), the shape of the frame (rod or plaque), by the number of tines, and whether the tines are plucked, joint-tapped, or string-pulled.
The frame is held firmly against the performer's parted teeth or lips (depending on the type), using the jaw and mouth as a resonator, greatly increasing the volume of the instrument. The teeth must be parted sufficiently for the reed to vibrate freely, and the fleshy parts of the mouth should not come into contact with the reed to prevent damping of the vibrations and possible pain. The note or tone thus produced is constant in pitch, though by changing the shape of his or her mouth, and the amount of air contained in it (and in some traditions closing the glottis), the performer can cause different overtones to sound and thus create melodies. The volume of the note (tone) can be varied by breathing in and out.
According to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, "The vibrations of the steel tongue produce a compound sound composed of a fundamental and its harmonics. By using the cavity of the mouth as a resonator, each harmonic in succession can be isolated and reinforced, giving the instrument the compass shown."
"The lower harmonics of the series cannot be obtained, owing to the limited capacity of the resonating cavity. The black notes on the stave show the scale which may be produced by using two harps, one tuned a fourth above the other. The player on the Jew's harp, in order to isolate the harmonics, frames his mouth as though intending to pronounce the various vowels." See: bugle scale.
This instrument is considered to be one of the oldest musical instruments in the world; a musician apparently playing it can be seen in a Chinese drawing from the 4th century BC. Despite its common English name, and the sometimes used "Jew's trump", it has no particular connection with Jews or Judaism. This instrument is native to Asia and used in all tribes of Turkic peoples in Asia, among whom it is variously referred to as a temir komuz (literally, iron komuz), agiz komuzu (literally, mouth komuz), gubuz or doromb.
Although this instrument is used by lackeys and people of the lower class, this does not mean it is not worthy of consideration by better minds...The trump is grasped while its extremity is placed betweeen the teeth in order to play it and make it sound...Now one may strike the tongue with the index finger in two ways, i.e., by lifting it or lowering it: but it is easier to strike it by raising it, which is why the extremity, C, is slightly curved, so that the finger is not injured...Many people play this instrument. When the tongue is made to vibrate, a buzzing is heard which imitates that of bees, wasps, and flies...[if one uses] several Jew's harps of various sizes, a curious harmony is produced."
The instrument is known in many different cultures by many different names. The common English name "Jew's harp" is sometimes considered controversial or potentially misleading, and is thus avoided by a few speakers or manufacturers. (For example, the above-pictured tie-in Jew's harp from the movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown is sold as "Snoopy's Harp" instead.) Another name used to identify the instrument, especially in scholarly literature, is the older English "trump", while "guimbarde", the French word for the instrument, can be found in unabridged dictionaries and is featured in recent revival efforts.
The temir komuz is made of iron usually with a length of 100–200 mm and with a width of approximately 2–7 mm. The range of the instrument varies with the size of the instrument, but generally hovers around an octave span. The Kyrgyz people are exceptionally proficient on the temir komuz instrument and it is quite popular among children, although some adults continue to play the instrument. There is a National Artist of Kyrgyz Republic who performs on the instrument, temir komuz. One time twenty Kirgiz girls played in a temir komuz ensemble on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Temir komuz pieces were notated by Zataevich in two or three parts. Apparently an octave drone is possible, or even an ostinato alternating the fifth step of a scale with an octave.
There are many theories for the origin of the name Jew's harp. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this name appears earliest in Walter Raleigh's Discouerie Guiana in 1596, spelled "Iewes Harp." The "jaw" variant is attested at least as early as 1774 and 1809, the "juice" variant appeared only in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
It has also been suggested that the name derives from the French "Jeu-trompe" meaning "toy-trumpet". But theories that the name is a corruption of "jaws" or "jeu" are described by the OED as "baseless and inept".
The OED says that, "More or less satisfactory reasons may be conjectured: e.g. that the instrument was actually made, sold, or imported to England by Jews, or purported to be so; or that it was attributed to them, as a good commercial name, suggesting the trumps and harps mentioned in the Bible."
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Turkic traditional music
In Sicilian language the Jew's harp is known as the "Marranzanu". It is a common element of Sicilian folk music. It also commonly in contemporary styles to provide a distinctive element of Sicilian identity to Sicilian music.
The Jew's harp is frequently to be found in the repertoire of music played by alternative or world music bands. Sandy Miller of the UK-based Brazilian samba/funk band Tempo Novo, plays a Jew's harp solo in the piece Canto de Ossanha.
Austrian Jew's harp playing
Whereas Jew's harp music is predominantly played with a drone, i.e., the one fundamental note is sounding throughout the playing, the tradition in Austrian folk music since about the 18th century has been to use multiple Jew's harps tuned to the main degree of a diatonic scale that are used according to the chords of the music. Thus, Austrian Jew's harp music uses typical Western harmony. In recognition of this special development, the UNESCO has included Austrian Jew's harp playing in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Western classical music
The Austrian composer Johann Albrechtsberger—chiefly known today as a teacher of Beethoven—wrote seven concerti for Jew's harp, mandora, and orchestra between 1769 and 1771. Four of them have survived, in the keys of F major, E-flat major, E major, and D major. They are based on the special use of the Jew's harp in Austrian folk music.
In the experimental period at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century there were very virtuoso instrumentalists on the mouth harp. Thus, for example, Johann Heinrich Scheibler was able to mount up to ten mouth harps on a support disc. He called the instrument "Aura". Each mouth harp was tuned to different basic tones, which made even chromatic sequences possible.— Walter Maurer, translated from German
Well known performer Franz Koch (1761—1831), discovered by Frederick the Great, could play two Jew's harps at once, while the also well known performer Karl Eulenstein (1802—1890), "invented a system of playing four at once, connecting them by silken strings in such a way that he could clasp all four with the lips, and strike all the four springs at the same time."
Western rock music
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- Jew's harp music
- Đàn môi, another kind of Jew's harp from Vietnam
- Gogona, a similar instrument played by Assamese people (especially women) while singing and dancing Bihu
- Kouxian, the Chinese version
- Kubing, a bamboo Jew's harp from the Philippines
- Morsing, Carnatic Jew's harp
- Mukkuri, a traditional bamboo instrument of the Ainu of Japan, similar to a Jew's harp.
- Music of Central Asia
- Traditional music of Sicily
- Musical bow, a one-string harp that is played with mouth resonance.
- Piperheugh, a village in which trumps were once made.
- "Gettysburg: Civil War Collections: Jaw Harp", NPS.gov.
- Wright, Michael (2004). "The Search for the Origins of the Jew’s Harp", SilkRoadFoundation.org.
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- "Sicilian Item of the day:Marranzano". Siciliamo (blog). 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
- Silkroad Foundation; Lee, Adela C.Y. "The Search for the Origins of the Jee's Harp". silkroadfoundation.org. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
- Fox (1988), p.45-8.
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- Slobin, Mark (1969). Kirgiz Instrumental Music. Theodore Front Music. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-614-16459-6. Retrieved February 23, 2014.
- Muiscellaneous and Fugitive pieces, vol3, Johnson et al. 1774
- Pegge's Anonymiana, 1818, p 33
- Timbs, John (1858). Things Not Generally Known: Popular Errors Explained & Illustrated. p. 61.
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- (1999). South Asia : The Indian Subcontinent. Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, Volume 5. Publisher: Routledge; Har/Com. ISBN 978-0-8240-4946-1.
- sindhi alghozo. YouTube. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2015.
- Tempo Novo - Leamington Spa, Myspace; accessed 23 February 2014.
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- The Who - Join Together. YouTube. 20 March 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
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- Bakx, Phons (1992). De gedachtenverdrijver: de historie van de mondharp. Hadewijch wereldmuziek. Antwerpen: Hadewijch; ISBN 90-5240-163-2.
- Boone, Hubert, and René de Maeyer (1986). De Mondtrom. Volksmuziekinstrumenten in Belgie en in Nederland. Brussel: La Renaissance du Livre.
- Crane, Frederick (1982). "Jew's (jaw's? jeu? jeugd? gewgaw? juice?) harp." In: Vierundzwanzigsteljahrschrift der Internationalen Maultrommelvirtuosengenossenschaft, vol. 1 (1982). With: "The Jew's Harp in Colonial America," by Brian L. Mihura.
- Crane, Frederick (2003). A History of the Trump in Pictures: Europe and America. A special supplement to Vierundzwanzigsteljahrsschrift der Internationalen Maultrommelvirtuosengenossenschaft. Mount Pleasant, Iowa: [Frederick Crane].
- Dournon-Taurelle, Geneviève, and John Wright (1978). Les Guimbardes du Musée de l'homme. Preface by Gilbert Rouget. Published by the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle and l'Institut d'ethnologie.
- Emsheimer, Ernst (1941). "Über das Vorkommen und die Anwendungsart der Maultrommel in Sibirien und Zentralasien." In: Ethnos (Stockholm), nos 3-4 (1941).
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- Fox, Leonard (1984). The Jew's Harp: A Comprehensive Anthology. Selected, edited, and translated by Leonard Fox. Charleston, South Carolina: L. Fox.
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- Gallmann, Matthew S. (1977). The Jews Harp: A Select List of References With Library of Congress Call Numbers. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, Archive of Folk Song.
- Gotovtsev, Innokenty. New Technologies for Yakut Khomus. Yakutsk.
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- Mercurio, Paolo (1998). Sa Trumba. Armomia tra telarzu e limbeddhu. Solinas Edition, Nuoro (IT).
- Plate, Regina (1992). Kulturgeschichte der Maultrommel. Orpheus-Schriftenreihe zu Grundfragen der Musik, Bd. 64. Bonn: Verlag für Systematische Musikwissenschaft; ISBN 3-922626-64-5.
- Shishigin, S. S. (1994). Igraite na khomuse. Mezhdunarodnyi tsentr khomusnoi (vargannoi) muzyki. Pokrovsk: S.S. Shishigin/Ministerstvo kul'tury Respubliki Sakha (IAkutiia). ISBN 5-85157-012-1.
- Shishigin, Spiridon. Kulakovsky and Khomus. Yakutia.
- Smeck, Roy (1974). Mel Bay's Fun With the Jaws Harp.
- Wright, Michael (2008). "The Jew's Harp in the Law, 1590-1825". In: Folk Music Journal 9.3 pp. 349–371; ISSN 0531-9684.
- Wright, Michael (2015). The Jew's Harp in Britain and Ireland. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate; ISBN 978-1-4724-1413-7.
- Yuan, Bingchang, and Jizeng Mao (1986). Zhongguo Shao Shu Min Zu Yue Qi Zhi. Beijing: Xin Shi Jie Chu Ban She: Xin Hua Shu Dian Beijing Fa Xing Suo Fa Xing; ISBN 7-80005-017-3.
- Paolo Mercurio (2013). Gli Scacciapensieri Strumenti Musicali dell'Armonia Internazionali, Interculturali, Interdisciplinari. Milano; ISBN 978-88-6885-391-4.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jaw harp.|
- "Jew's harp". Encyclopædia Britannica. 15 (11th ed.). 1911.
- The Jew's Harp Guild
- How to play the jew's harp (instructions with sound examples and remarks on the functioning of Jew's harps)
- A page on guimbardes from Pat Missin's free reed instrument website
- Origins of the Jew's Harp. A popular synopsis of the archaeological findings of Jew's harps combined with an extensive illustrated survey of the world distribution of different types.
- Jewsharper Jews harp history, news and tutorials from Michael Wright, of Oxfordshire, UK
- Demir-xomus (Tuvan Jew's Harp) Demos, photos, folktale, and text