LYNNE LEWANDOWSKI ANSWERS QUESTIONS ABOUT
EXPLAIN “Harps for Early Music”?
means a thousand years of harps before pedals, or levers,
or modern materials.
WOULD YOU DISCUSS CHROMATICISM AND EARLY
Early harpers always have a tuning wrench
at hand, and become expert at rapid retuning. Some of
concert moments are the harper’s improvisation
into the next mode or key. In that sense, all harps
are chromatic. Players who imagine limitations
out on a millenium of harp history and music.
First we ask, “what’s the music doing?” For
example, twelfth-century music is modal. It doesn’t
require sudden accidentals. As we move through
Renaissance music, an accidental may appear and
then vanish (“musica
ficta”.) With some gut-strung harps, the
player can neatly press the string on the neck
to raise the
pitch. Players may prefer a nine-tone scale, or
may tune with different accidentals in each octave.
harp can be tuned with a gapped scale. Double,
triple and cross-strung harps feature extra rows
strings. And everyone can learn to improvise around
accidentals. The harps can do it, but not without
a willing performer.
WHERE IS THE WRITTEN MUSIC
FOR THE VERY EARLY HARPS?
Shadowing the words “improvisation” or “untexted
repertoire” is the fact that, well, there
is none. The irony is that some persons most capable
a readable modern manuscript refuse to do it, for
their own excellent reasons. At this point I turn
to the scholars, so you can share the excitement
of their explanations.
SO HOW DO I GET STARTED IN
Read every chapter of “A Performer’s
Guide to Medieval Music” (Ross W. Duffin,
editor, Indiana University Press), wherein performing
intriguing questions. While you may never meet
a trombe marina or play the gittern, you will learn
tuning, improvisation, proportion. This book becomes
a secret pleasure and makes you very interesting
at parties. (And you’re allowed to argue
WHO ARE YOU?
My name is Lynne Lewandowski.
I’m a luthier
specializing in medieval and Renaissance harps
and psalteries. I
research, design and build the harps you see
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN EARLY MUSIC?
was lucky to be in New York City in 1975. I graduated
from Sarah Lawrence College with
studies in philosophy
and early music. (There isn’t a career
counselor in the world who will touch that
Early music was everywhere, but nobody
was building authentic historical harps.
of other instruments
were generous with their encouragement.
Museum curators granted me access to instruments
and medieval relics.
Since the work required iconographic research,
I lived in gratitude for librarians and
In 1980 I moved to the extraordinary state
of Vermont, where I live and work today.
TO SEE AND PLAY THE HARPS
You can see the harps at
the Boston Early Music Festival and Exhibition (a biannual
workshops, and the Exhibition), the Amherst
Early Music Festival & Instrument Maker’s
Fair, and numerous other venues.