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Lyre
Mousai Helikon Staatliche Antikensammlungen Schoen80 n1.jpg
Greek vase with muse playing the phorminx, a type of lyre
String instrument
Hornbostel-Sachs classification 321.2
(Composite chordophone sounded with a plectrum)
Developed Sumer, Iraq
Related instruments

The lyre (from Greek λύρα - lyra) is a stringed musical instrument well known for its use in classical antiquity and later. The recitations of the Ancient Greeks were accompanied by lyre playing. The lyre of Classical Antiquity was ordinarily played by being strummed with a plectrum, like a guitar or a zither, rather than being plucked, like a harp. The fingers of the free hand silenced the unwanted strings in the chord. The lyre is similar in appearance to a small harp, but with certain distinct differences.

The word lyre can either refer specifically to a common folk-instrument, which is a smaller version of the professional kithara and eastern-Aegean barbiton, or lyre can refer generally to all three instruments as a family.

The term is also used metaphorically to refer to the work or skill of a poet, as in Shelley's "Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is"[1] or Byron's "I wish to tune my quivering lyre,/To deeds of fame, and notes of fire"[2]

Contents

Classification

Lyres from various times and places are regarded by some organologists (specialists in the history of musical instruments) as a branch of the zither family, a general category which includes many different stringed instruments, such as lutes, guitars, kantele, and psalteries, not just zithers.

Others view the lyre and zither as being two separate classes. Those specialists maintain that the zither is distinguished by strings spread across all or most of its soundboard, or the top surface of its sound chest, also called soundbox or resonator, as opposed to the lyre, whose strings emanate from a more or less common point off the soundboard, such as a tailpiece. Examples of that difference include a piano (a keyed zither) and a violin (referred to by some as a species of fingerboard lyre). Some specialists even argue that instruments such as the violin and guitar belong to a class apart from the lyre because they have no yokes or uprights surmounting their resonators as "true" lyres have. This group they usually refer to as the lute class, after the instrument of that name, and include within it the guitar, the violin, the banjo, and similar stringed instruments with fingerboards. Those who differ with that opinion counter by calling the lute, violin, guitar, banjo, and other such instruments "independent fingerboard lyres," as opposed to simply "fingerboard lyres" such as the Welsh crwth, which have both fingerboards and frameworks above their resonators.

One point on which organologists universally agree is that the distinction between harps on the one hand and zithers and lyres (and, in some views, lutes) on the other is that harps have strings emanating directly from the soundboard and residing in a plane that is basically perpendicular to the soundboard, as opposed to the other instruments, whose strings are attached to one or more points somewhere off the soundboard (e.g., wrest pins on a zither, tailpiece on a lyre or lute) and lie in a plane essentially parallel to it. They also agree that neither the overall size of the instrument nor the number of strings on it have anything to do with its classification. For example, small Scottish and Irish harps can be held on the lap, while some ancient Sumerian lyres appear to have been as tall as a seated man (see Kinsky; also Sachs, History ..., under "References"). Regarding the number of strings, the standard 88-key piano has many more strings than even the largest harp.

Construction

Woman posing as a Siren with a lyre in 1913.

A classical lyre has a hollow body or sound-chest (also known as soundbox or resonator). Extending from this sound-chest are two raised arms, which are sometimes hollow, and are curved both outward and forward. They are connected near the top by a crossbar or yoke. An additional crossbar, fixed to the sound-chest, makes the bridge which transmits the vibrations of the strings. The deepest note was that farthest from the player's body; as the strings did not differ much in length, more weight may have been gained for the deeper notes by thicker strings, as in the violin and similar modern instruments, or they were tuned by having a slacker tension. The strings were of gut. They were stretched between the yoke and bridge, or to a tailpiece below the bridge. There were two ways of tuning: one was to fasten the strings to pegs which might be turned; the other was to change the place of the string upon the crossbar; probably both expedients were used simultaneously.

Statue of the Olympian deity, Apollo holding a lyre.

According to ancient Greek mythology, the young god Hermes created the lyre from a slaughtered cow from Apollo's sacred herd, using the intestines for the strings - eventually Apollo discovered who had stolen his herd, but Hermes was forgiven after he gave Apollo the instrument. Lyres were associated with Apollonian virtues of moderation and equilibrium, contrasting with the Dionysian pipes and aulos, both of which represented ecstasy and celebration.

Locales in southern Europe, western Asia, or north Africa have been proposed as the historic birthplace of the genus. The instrument is still played in north-eastern parts of Africa.

Some of the cultures using and developing the lyre were the Aeolian and Ionian Greek colonies on the coasts of Asia (ancient Asia Minor, modern day Turkey) bordering the Lydian empire. Some mythic masters like Musaeus, and Thamyris were believed to have been born in Thrace, another place of extensive Greek colonization. The name kissar (kithara) given by the ancient Greeks to Egyptian box instruments reveals the apparent similarities recognized by Greeks themselves. The cultural peak of ancient Egypt, and thus the possible age of the earliest instruments of this type, predates the 5th century classic Greece. This indicates the possibility that the lyre might have existed in one of Greece's neighboring countries, either Thrace, Lydia, or Egypt, and was introduced into Greece at pre-classic times.

Number of strings on the classical lyre

The number of strings on the classical lyre varied at different epochs, and possibly in different localities – four, seven and ten having been favorite numbers. They were used without a fingerboard, no Greek description or representation having ever been met with that can be construed as referring to one. Nor was a bow possible, the flat sound-board being an insuperable impediment. The plectrum, however, was in constant use. It was held in the right hand to set the upper strings in vibration; when not in use, it hung from the instrument by a ribbon. The fingers of the left hand touched the lower strings (presumably to silence those whose notes were not wanted).

There is no evidence as to the stringing of the Greek lyre in the heroic age. Plutarch says that Olympus and Terpander used but three strings to accompany their recitation. As the four strings led to seven and eight by doubling the tetrachord, so the trichord is connected with the hexachord or six-stringed lyre depicted on so many archaic Greek vases. The accuracy of this representation cannot be insisted upon, the vase painters being little mindful of the complete expression of details; yet one may suppose their tendency would be rather to imitate than to invent a number. It was their constant practice to represent the strings as being damped by the fingers of the left hand of the player, after having been struck by the plectrum which he held in the right hand. Before Greek civilization had assumed its historic form, there was likely to have been great freedom and independence of different localities in the matter of lyre stringing, which is corroborated by the antique use of the chromatic (half-tone) and enharmonic (quarter-tone) tunings pointing to an early exuberance, and perhaps also to an Asiatic bias towards refinements of intonation.

The Bowed Byzantine Lyre

Earliest known depiction of the bowed Byzantine lyra in a Byzantine ivory casket (900 - 1100 AD).

See main article Byzantine lyra.

In the Byzantine Empire the term lyre or lyra (Greek: λύρα) was used to describe the bowed Byzantine lyra (Greek: λύρα - lūrā ), a pear-shaped bowl lyre with 3 strings, sounded by a horse tail hair bow. The Persian geographer Ibn Khurradadhbih (d. 911) of the 9th century, in his lexicographical discussion of instruments, cited the Byzantine lyra as the Byzantine instrument equivalent to the bowed rebab of the Islamic empires of that time[3]. The Byzantine lyra spread westward through Europe influencing, for one notable example, the design of the Italian lira da braccio, a 15th-century fiddle and predecessor of the modern violin. The instrument is not entirely dead, even today; variations of the lyra are still played in Bulgaria, Greece, Italy and Turkey; a notable example is Crete, where the Cretan lyra is central to the traditional music of the island.

Modern Greece

While the classical lyre is no longer played in modern Greece, the term lyre (Greek: λύρα - lyra) is used in Greece to describe various regional types of bowed instruments in modern Greece related either to the Byzantine bowed lyra (see above) or the Persian Kemanche. There are two basic styles of bowed lyres:

  1. a pear-shaped instrument descendant of the Byzantine lyra with a vaulted back which is found in various regions in Greece – in particular, the Dodecanese and Crete (e.g. Cretan lyra) – and the northern mainland regions of Macedonia and Thrace
  2. a bottle-shaped instrument closely related to the Cappadocian kemane (Greek: κεμανές) with a narrow rectangular cylinder body of the Pontians, Greeks who trace their roots to Pontos (Pontus), the Black Sea region of northern Turkey. Due to its origin, the Pontic Greek lyra was traditionally known as kemenche..

Both types typically have three strings and are held upright and bowed horizontally: if the player is seated, the instrument's base rests on the player's upper left thigh. The Cretan lyra is the dominant instrument of the traditional music of Crete and is traditionally played in a duo with the laouto, a long-neck fretted lute that is strummed like a guitar.

Central and Northern Europe

Reproduction of the lyre from the royal burial at Sutton Hoo, late 6th/early 7th century AD

Other instruments known as lyres have been fashioned and used in Europe outside the Greco-Roman world since at least the early Middle Ages, and one view holds that many modern stringed instruments are late-emerging examples of the lyre class. There is no clear evidence that non-Greco-Roman lyres were played exclusively with plectra, and numerous instruments regarded by some as modern lyres are played with bows.

Lyres appearing to have emerged independently of Greco-Roman prototypes were used by the Teutonic, Gallic, Scandinavian, and Celtic peoples over a thousand years ago. Dates of origin, which probably vary from region to region, cannot be determined, but the oldest known fragments of such instruments are thought to date from around the sixth century of the Common Era. After the bow made its way into Europe from the Middle-East, around two centuries later, it was applied to several species of those lyres that were small enough to make bowing practical. There came to be two broad classes of bowed European yoke lyres: those with fingerboards dividing the open space within the yoke longitudinally, and those without fingerboards. The last surviving examples of instruments within the latter class were the Scandinavian talharpa and jouhikko. Different tones could be obtained from a single bowed string by pressing the fingernails of the player's left hand against various points along the string to fret the string.

The last of the bowed yoke lyres with fingerboard was the "modern" (ca. 1485 - ca. 1800) Welsh crwth. It had several predecessors both in the British Isles and in Continental Europe. Pitch was changed on individual strings by pressing the string firmly against the fingerboard with the fingertips. Like a violin, this method shortened the vibrating length of the string to produce higher tones, while releasing the finger gave the string a greater vibrating length, thereby producing a tone lower in pitch. This is the principle on which the modern violin and guitar work.

While the dates of origin and other evolutionary details of the European bowed yoke lyres continue to be disputed among organologists, there is general agreement that none of them were the ancestors of modern orchestral bowed stringed instruments, as once was thought.

Alternative meanings of "lyre"

In furniture design, a lyre arm is a wooden lyre-shaped element often used at the front of the arm of a chair, typically created as an exposed wooden part of a chair, sofa or other furniture piece.

A music holder used by marching bands is also called a "lyre" for its shape similar to this instrument.

Lyre also can denote the framework supporting the foot pedals underneath a piano. The term is most often used in connection with older pianos of ornate designs.

The constellation Lyra is said to resemble a lyre shape, but it looks more like a lute.

Lyres around the world

See also

References

  1. ^ Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ode to the West Wind, I, 57–61.
  2. ^ Lord Byron (1807), Hours of Idleness: To His Lyre.
  3. ^ Margaret J. Kartomi, 1990

Bibliography

  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Lyre". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  
  • Andersson, Otto. The Bowed Harp, translated and edited by Kathleen Schlesinger (London: New Temple Press, 1930).
  • Bachmann, Werner. The Origins of Bowing, trans. Norma Deane (London: Oxford University Press, 1969).
  • Jenkins, J. "A Short Note on African Lyres in Use Today." Iraq 31 (1969), p. 103 (+ pl. XVIII).
  • Kinsky, George. A History of Music in Pictures (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1937).
  • Sachs, Curt. The Rise of Music in the Ancient World, East and West (New York: W.W. Norton, 1943).
  • Sachs, Curt. The History of Musical Instruments (New York: W.W. Norton, 1940).


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LYRE (Gr. Xllpa), an ancient stringed musical instrument. The recitations of the Greeks were accompanied by it. Yet the lyre was not of Greek origin; no root in the language has been discovered for ?kb/3a, although the special names bestowed upon varieties of the instrument are Hellenic. We have to seek in Asia the birthplace of the genus, and to infer its introduction into Greece through Thrace or Lydia. The historic heroes and improvers of the lyre were of the Aeolian or Ionian colonies, or the adjacent coast bordering on the Lydian empire, while the mythic masters, Orpheus, Musaeus and Thamyris, were Thracians. Notwithstanding the Hermes tradition of the invention of the lyre in Egypt, the Egyptians seem to have adopted it from Assyria or Babylonia.

To define the lyre, it is necessary clearly to separate it from the allied harp and guitar. In its primal form the lyre differs from the harp, of which the earliest, simplest notion is found in the bow and bowstring. While the guitar (and lute) can be traced back to the typical " nefer " of the fourth Egyptian dynasty, the fretted finger-board of which, permitting the production of different notes by the shortening of the string, is as different in conception from the lyre and harp as the flute with holes to shorten the column of air is from the syrinx or Pandean pipes. The frame of a lyre consists of a hollow body or sound-chest (7)Xe%ov). From this sound-chest are raised two arms (7riixecs), which are sometimes hollow, and are bent both outward and forward. They are connected near the top by a crossbar or yoke Q"uyov, ?"u r yw sa, or, from its having once been a reed, icaXa,uos). Another crossbar (u tXas, i) roXupcov), fixed on the sound-chest, forms the bridge which transmits the vibrations of the strings. The deepest note was the farthest from the player; but, as the strings did not differ much in length, more weight may have been gained for the deeper notes by thicker strings, as in the violin and similar modern instruments, or they were turned with slacker tension. The strings were of gut (XopSrl, whence chord). They were stretched between the yoke and bridge, or to a tailpiece below the bridge. There were two ways of tuning: one was to fasten the strings to pegs which might be turned (KOXXa(30t, KOXXoIrfs); the other was to change the place of the string upon the crossbar; probably both expedients were simultaneously employed. It is doubtful whether xopboTOvos meant the tuning key or the part of the instrument where the pegs were inserted. The extensions of the arms above the yoke were known as KEpara, horns.

The number of strings varied at different epochs, and possibly in different localities - four, seven and ten having been favourite numbers. They were used without a finger-board, no Greek description or representation having ever been met with that can be construed as referring to one. Nor was a bow possible, the flat sound-board being an insuperable impediment. The plectrum, however (7rXijKTpov), was in constant use. It was held in the right hand to set the upper strings in vibration (KpEKav, Kpouft y T w RrX 1KTpy); at other times it hung from the lyre by a ribbon. The fingers of the left hand touched the lower strings (i iXXecv).

With Greek authors the lyre has several distinct names; but we are unable to connect these with anything like certainty to the varieties of the instrument. Chelys (xOws, " tortoise ") may mean the smallest lyre, which, borne by one arm or supported by the knees, offered in the sound-chest a decided resemblance to that familiar animal. That there was a difference between lyre and cithara (KCBapa) is certain, Plato and other writers separating them. Hermes and Apollo had an altar at Olympia in common because the former had invented the lyre and the latter the cithara. The lyre and chelys on the one hand, and the cithara and phorminx on the other, were similar or nearly identical. Apollo is said to have carried a golden phorminx. (A. J. H.) There are three lines of evidence that establish the difference between the lyre and cithara: (i) There are certain vase paintings in which the name Aupa accompanies the drawing of the instrument, as, for instance, in fig. 2 where the tortoise-shell lyre is obviously represented.' (2) In all legends accounting for the invention of the lyre, the shell or body of the tortoise is invariably mentioned as forming the back of the instrument, whereas the tortoise has never been connected with the cithara. (3) The lyre is emphatically distinguished as the most suitable instrument for the musical training of young men and maidens and as the instrument of the amateur, whereas the cithara was the instrument of citharoedus or citharista, professional performers at the Pythian Games, at ceremonies and festivals, the former using his instrument to accompany epic recitations and odes, the latter for purely instrumental music. The costume worn by citharoedus and citharista was exceedingly rich and quite distinct from any other.2 Gerhard, A u s e r 1. We find the lyre represented among scenes griech. Vasenbilder. of domestic life, in lessons, receptions, at construction of the instruments thus indentified reveals the fact that both possessed characteristics which have persisted throughout the middle ages to the present day in various instruments evolved from these two archetypes. The principal feature of both lyre and cithara was the peculiar method of construction adopted in the sound-chest, which may be said to have been almost independent of the outline. In the lyre the sound-chest consisted of a vaulted back, in imitation of the tortoise, over which was directly glued a flat sound-board of wood or parchment. In the cithara (q.v.) the sound-chest was shallower, and the back and front were invariably connected by sides or ribs. These two methods of constructing the sound-chests of stringed instruments were typical, and to one or the other may be referred every stringed instrument with a neck which can be traced during the middle ages in miniatures, early printed books, on monuments and other works of art. (K. S.)' Passing by the story of the discovery of the lyre from a vibrating tortoise-shell by Hermes, we will glance at the real lyres of Egypt and Semitic Asia. The Egyptian lyre is unmistakably Semitic. The oldest representation that has been discovered is in one of the tombs of Beni Hassan, the date of the painting being in the XIIth Dynasty, that is, shortly before the invasion of " the shepherd kings " (the Hyksos). In this painting, which both Rosellini and Lepsius have reproduced, an undoubted Semite carries a seven or eightstringed lyre, or rather cithara in transition, similar to the rotta of the middle ages. The instrument has a four-cornered body and an irregular four-cornered frame above it, and the player carries it horizontally from his breast, just as a modern Nubian would his kissar. He plays as he walks, using both hands, a plectrum being in the right. Practical knowledge of these ancient instruments may be gained through two remarkable specimens preserved in the museums of Berlin (fig. 3) and Leiden (see Cithara). During the rule of the Hyksos the lyre became naturalized in Egypt, and in the 18th dynasty it is frequently depicted, and with finer grace of form. In the 19th and 10th dynasties the lyre is sometimes still more slender, or is quite unsymmetrical and very strong, the horns surmounted by heads of animals as in the Berlin one, which has horses' heads at those extremities. Prokesch copied one in the ruins of Wadi Halfa, splendid in blue and gold, with a serpent wound round it. The Egyptians always strung their lyres fan-shaped, FIG. 3. - Egyptian Cithara now at Berlin. like the modern Nubian kissar. Their paintings show three to eight or nine strings, but the painters accuracy may not be unimpeachable; the Berlin instrument had fifteen. The threestringed lyre typified the three seasons of the Egyptian year - the water, the green and the harvest; the seven, the planetary system from the moon to Saturn. The Greeks had the same notion of the harmony of the spheres.

There is no evidence as to what the stringing of the Greek lyre was in the heroic age. Plutarch says that Olympus and Terpander used but three strings to accompany their recitation. As the four strings led to seven and eight by doubling the tetrachord, so the trichord is connected with the hexachord or six-stringed lyre depicted on so many archaic Greek vases. We cannot insist on the accuracy of this representation, the vase painters being little mindful of the complete expression of details; yet we may suppose their tendency would be rather to imitate than to invent a number. It was their constant practice to represent the strings as being damped by the fingers of the left hand of the player, after having been struck by the plectrum which he held in the right hand. Before the Greek civilization had assumed its historic form, there was likely to be great freedom and independence of different localities in the matter of lyre stringing, which is corroborated by the antique use of the chromatic (half-tone) and enharmonic (quarter-tone) tunings, pointing to an early exuberance, and perhaps also to an Asiatic bias towards refinements of intonation, from which came the xphae, the hues of tuning, old Greek modifications of tetrachords entirely disused in the classic period. The common scale of Olympus remained, a double trichord which had served as the scaffolding for the enharmonic varieties.

FIG. I. - Chelys or Lyre from a vase in the British Museum, where also are fragments of such an instrument, the back of which is of shell.

FIG. 2. - Tortoise banquets and in mythological scenes; it is shell Lyre from a Greek vase i n found in the hands of women no less than Munich. men, and the costume of the performer is invariably that of an ordinary citizen. Lyres were of many sizes and varied in outline according to period and nationality.

We therefore possess irrefutable evidence of identification in both cases, all of which tallies exactly. Examination of the ' See Ed. Gerhard, Auserlesene griech. Vasenbilder, part iii. (Berlin, 1847), pl. 236 and p. 157.

2 See Aristotle, Polit. v. 6.5.

We may regard the Olympus scale, however, as consisting of two tetrachords, eliding one interval in each, for the tetrachord, or series of four notes, was very early adopted as the fundamental principle of Greek music, and its origin in the lyre itself appears sure. The basis of the tetrachord is the employment of the thumb and first three fingers of the left hand to twang as many strings, the little finger not being used on account of natural weakness. As a succession of three whole tones would form the disagreeable and untunable interval of a tritonus, two whole tones and a half-tone were tuned, fixing the tetrachord in the consonant interval of the perfect fourth. This succession of four notes being in the grasp of the hand was called avXXa/, just as in language a group of letters incapable of further reduction is called syllable. In the combination of two syllables or tetrachords the modern diatonic scales resemble the Greek so-called disjunct scale, but the Greeks knew nothing of our categorical distinctions of major and minor. We might call the octave Greek scale minor, according to our descending minor form, were not the keynote in the middle the thumb note of the deeper tetrachord. The upper tetrachord, whether starting from the keynote (conjunct) or from the note above (disjunct), was of exactly the same form as the lower, the position of the semitones being identical. The semitone was a limma (AEiµµa), rather less than the semitone of our modern equal temperament, the Greeks tuning both the whole tones in the tetrachord by the same ratio of 8:9, which made the major third a dissonance, or rather would have done so had they combined them in what we call harmony. In melodious sequence the Greek tetrachord is decidedly more agreeable to the ear than the corresponding series of our equal temperament. And although our scales are derived from combined tetrachords, in any system of tuning that we employ, be it just, mean-tone, or equal, they are less logical than the conjunct or disjunct systems accepted by the Greeks. But modern harmony is not compatible with them, and could not have arisen on the Greek melodic lines.

The conjunct scale of seven notes ?--9arz__= E70?? B r= attributed to Terpander, was long the norm for stringing and tuning the lyre. When the disjunct scale the octave scale attributed to Pythagoras, was admitted, to preserve the time-honoured seven strings one note had to be omitted; it was therefore customary to omit the C, which in Greek practice was a dissonance. The Greek names for the strings of seven and eight stringed lyres, the first note being highest in pitch and nearest the player, were as follows: Nete, Paranete, Paramese; Mese, Lichanos, Parhypate, Hypate; or Nete, Paranete, Trite, Paramese; Mese, Lichanos, Parhypate, Hypate - the last four from Mese to Hypate being the finger tetrachord, the others touched with the plectrum. The highest string in pitch was called the last, vEhrn; the lowest in pitch was called the highest, u7riLT IJ, because it was, in theory at least, the longest string. The keynote and thumb string was ,u_an, middle; the next lower was Xtxavos, the first finger or lick-finger string; TpLT1 ] , the third, being in the plectrum division, was also known as o;Eia, sharp, perhaps from the dissonant quality to which we have referred as the cause of its omission. The plectrum and finger tetrachords together were Sialraa&v, through all; in the disjunct scale, an octave.

In transcribing the Greek notes into our notation, the absolute pitch cannot be represented; the relative positions of the semitones are alone determined. We have already quoted the scale of Pythagoras, the Dorian or true Greek succession: - ?r Shifting the semitone one degree upwards in each tetrachord, we have the Phrygian Another degree gives the Lydian which would be our major scale of E were not the keynote A. The names imply an Asiatic origin. We need not here pursue further the much-debated question of Greek scales and their derivation; it will suffice to remark that the outside notes of the tetrachords were fixed in their tuning as perfect fourths - the inner strings being, as stated, in diatonic sequence, or when chromatic two half-tones were tuned, when enharmonic two quarter-tones, leaving respectively the wide intervals of a minor and major third, and both impure, to complete the tetrachord. (A. J. H.) See the article by Theodore Reinach in Daremberg and Saglio, Antiquites grecques et romaines; Wilhelm Johnsen, Die Lyra, ein Beitrag zu griechischen Kunstgeschichte (Berlin, 1876); Hortense Panum, " Harfe and Lyra in Nord Europa," Intern. Mus. Ges., Sbd. vii. I, pp. 1-40 (Leipzig, 1905); A. J. Hipkins, " Dorian and Phrygian, reconsidered from a non-harmonic point of view," in Intern. Mus Ges. (Leipzig. 1903), iv. 3.


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Wiktionary

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Wikipedia

A lyre

Etymology

From Ancient Greek λύρα (lyra), lyre, a stringed instrument with a sounding-board formed of the shell of a tortoise)

Pronunciation

Noun

Singular
lyre

Plural
lyres

lyre (plural lyres)

  1. a stringed musical instrument.

Related terms

Translations

External links

  • lyre in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • lyre in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911

Anagrams


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Harp and Lyre article)

From BibleWiki


The ancient Hebrews had two stringed instruments, the "kinnor" ( (missing hebrew text) ) and the "nebel" ( (missing hebrew text) ). In the English versions of the Old Testament the former word is wrongly translated"harp." In both instruments the strings were set in vibration by the fingers, or perhaps by a little stick, the plectrum (as Josephus says). Bow instruments were unknown to the ancients. The strings were made of gut, metal strings not being used in olden times. The body of the instrument was generally made of cypress (2 Sam 6:5) or, in very precious instruments, of sandalwood (1 Kg 10:11; A. V. "almug").

When Used.

The kinnor and nebel are often mentioned together. As in the case of all instrumental music among the Hebrews, they were used principally as an accompaniment to the voice (see Music). Instruments were used on joyous occasions, such as banquets and festive processions (Gen 31:27; 1Sam 10:5; 2 Sam 6:5; Isa 5:12), and especially in the Temple service (Ps 332, xliii. 4; Neh 12:27; 1Chr 16:5); here also in accompaniment to songs of praise and thanksgiving (1Chr 16:16; 2Chr 5:12; Ps 332, lvii. 9, lxxi. 22). They were never used on occasions of mourning (Isa 24:8; Ezek 26:13; Lam. v. 14; Ps 1372; Job 30:31). The more popular of the two instruments was the kinnor, which is much more frequently mentioned in the Old Testament than the nebel. Its invention is ascribed to Jubal (Gen 4:21). It was used on family occasions and at popular festivals (Gen 31:27; Job 21:12), and was played upon both by the noble and by the lowly. David, the shepherd-boy, was a noted player (1Sam 16:16). The nebel, on the other hand, seems to have been reserved exclusively for religious occasions (Amos 5:23; Ps 1449). In connection with secular events (Amos 6:5; Isa 14:11), its use appears to have been regarded as unseemly and profane. Regarding the form of the two instruments, it is evident from the Old Testament that they could be played while the performer was walking (1Sam 10:5; 2 Sam 6:5; Isa 23:16); hence they must have been easy to carry.

From the name "nebel" it has been inferred that the shape of this instrument, or of its sounding-board, was similar to that of the bulging vessel of the same name in which wine was kept, or that the sounding-board was made of some animal membrane ( (missing hebrew text) = "skin"). This, however, is a very questionable explanation.

Similarity to Greek Instruments.

Reliance must therefore be placed upon tradition and the analogies furnished by the ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian instruments. The translation of "kinnor" by κιΘάρα presupposes a similarity between the Hebrew and the Greek instruments, a supposition that is confirmed by the illustrations of the kinnor found on Jewish coins (see illustration), which is very similar to both the Greek lyre and cithara. If these had been foreign instruments derived from the Greeks, they would not have been represented as emblems on coins. On the other hand, the Hebrew cithara, the kinnor, is not found in its original form, but in the modified form it assumed under Greek influence. The earliest shape of this instrument, which readily explains that on the coins intended as ornaments, is perhaps represented on an Egyptian tomb at Beni Hassan (see illustration). Here the instrument consists of a long, rectangular board, the upper half of which is cut out so as to form a kind of frame; and above this opening the strings, running parallel to one another, are strung lengthwise across the board. The player holds the instrument in a horizontal position against his chest, and touches the strings with his left hand, while his right holds a little stick serving as a plectrum. The illustration furthermore shows that the instrument did not originate in Egypt, but with the Asiatic Semites; for it is carried by Asiatic Bedouins praying for admission into Egypt. The instrument was subsequently introduced into Egypt, where it was modified in form.

The same instrument is again found in its primitive form on an Assyrian relief, here also played by Semitic prisoners, from the western districts. The representations on Jewish coins, mentioned above, appear in comparison with these primitive forms as further developments under the influence of Greek taste. In one of the instruments there is under the strings a curious sounding-boardlike a kettle-drum; such a sounding-board is mentioned by the Church Fathers in describing the instrument. As it appears from the foregoing that the instrument was widely used among the Semites, and as the Biblical references, as well as those found in Josephus, seem to apply best to the cithara, it may be assumed that this instrument corresponds to the kinnor. The number of strings evidently varied. In the old Egyptian illustration there are eight strings; the later Egyptian cithara has from three to nine strings; the instruments on the coins have from three to six strings; and Josephus says that the cithara had ten and the nebel twelve strings.

The Nebel.

Regarding the nebel there are different views, of which the principal two may be mentioned here. According to one opinion the nebel was identical with the harp. Among the ancient Egyptians there is found, in addition to the large, upright harp, a small portable instrument of that class, which, like the nebel of the Old Testament, the harpist could play while walking. This harp consists of a wide, flat board, with another board fastened at right angles at one end. Across this frame are stretched strings decreasing in length from the center to the sides. A somewhat different Assyrian harp is pictured in a Kuyunjik relief, where a band of musicians going to meet the victorious Assurbanipal is represented. An illustration of a Babylonian harp is again somewhat different, showing but five strings. Although Josephus mentions twelve strings, it must be remembered that the instrument underwent various changes of form in the course of time.

According to another view the nebel is to be compared with the "sanṭir" (still used among the Arabs), perhaps in view of the Septuagint rendering of the word by "psalterion" (= (missing hebrew text) ; Dan 3:5). The sanṭir consists of a longish, shallow box across which the strings are fixed, the player holding it on his lap. The earliest form of the instrument is found, together with the harp, in the above-mentioned illustration from Kuyunjik. The strings here are strung parallel across the box; the player holds the plectrum in his right hand; it is not clear whether he touches the strings with his left hand also. It is said in reference to the last-named instrument that the name "nebel" would apply very well to it, whether one imagines a bulging sounding-board of one made of an animal membrane. The words "pi ha-nebel" (Amos 6:5) would in this case refer to the opening in the sounding-board. But, as stated above, this interpretation is very questionable. Jerome's statement that the nebel had the delta form (Δ) argues in favor of a harp-like instrument, as does also the statement of Josephus ("Ant." vii. 12, § 3) that the nebel was played with the fingers, which seems hardly possible in the case of the cymbals.

Finally, there is the tradition that the nebel, unlike the kinnor, was an instrument that stood upright.

Bibliography: Benzinger, Arch.; Nowack, Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäologie, i. 273 et seq.; Riehm, Handwörterb. des Biblischen Altertums. pp. 1043 et seq.; Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. s.v. Music; Wellhausen, in S.B.O.T. Eng. transl. of Psalms (Polychrome Bible); Benzinger, Protestantische Realencyclopädie, s.v. Music; and the bibliographies cited in these works.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.

Simple English

, the centaur from Greek mythology, teaching the young Achilles to play the lyre.]] A lyre (pronounce to rhyme with "fire") is an instrument which is like a mixture between a harp and a guitar. It is held in one hand and the strings are plucked using the other hand. Lyres were among the first string instruments to be invented.








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