An Æolian harp is usually about three feet long, five inches broad, and three inches deep; of pine wood, with beech ends for insertion of the tuning- and hitch-pins, and with two narrow bridges of hard wood over which a dozen catgut strings are stretched. These are tuned in the most exact unison possible, or the beats caused by their difference would be disagreeable. The direction sometimes attached to tune by intervals of fourths and fifths is only misleading. The tension should be low; in other words, the strings be rather slack, the fundamental note not being noticeable when the instrument sounds. There are usually two soundholes in the soundboard. The ends are raised above the strings about an inch, and support another pine board, between which and the soundboard the draught of air is directed. To hear the Æolian harp it should be placed across a window sufficiently opened to admit of its introduction, and situated obliquely to the direction of the wind. The evening time is the best, as the feelings are then more attuned to the chords we are to listen to. The modifications of tone, increasing and decreasing in a manner inimitable by voices or instruments, are perfectly enchanting. An instrument producing chords by the wind alone, without our interference, stimulates the fancy, and is in itself an attractive phenomenon. The sounds are so pure and perfectly in tune, that no tuning we might accomplish could rival it. For we have here not tempered intervals but the natural tones of the strings, the half or octave, the third or interval of the twelfth, and so on, in an arithmetical progression, up to the sixth division, the whole vibrating length being taken as the first—we are listening to full and perfect harmony. But the next, the seventh, still in consonance with the lowest note, in effect not unlike the dull sad minor sixth, but still more mournful, is to our ears transcendental, as our musical system does not know it: and it would be too much out of tune with other intervals consonant to the key-note for admission to our scales. We are impressed with it as by a wail—in the words of Coleridge a 'sweet upbraiding,' ('The Æolian Harp,' Poems, i. 190)—to be followed as the wind-pressure increases by more and more angry notes as we mount to those dissonances in the next higher octave, especially the eleventh and thirteenth overtones that alternate and seem to shriek and howl until the abating gust of wind suffers the lower beautiful harmonies to predominate again. The mind finds in this return a choral echo as of some devotional antiphon, at least this has been the writer's experience, and not the mingling of violins, flutes, harps, and chromatic sequences by which some have described it. The Æolian harp is nature's music; man's music is au art, implying selection. He chooses intervals to construct his scales with, and avoids ratios that do not coincide with his instinctive feeling or intention.
offers a theory of its generation of sound. It also gained attention in Germany about the same time, through a description of it in the 'Gottingen Pocket Calendar' for 1792. H. C. Koch, a German, appears to have bestowed the most attention upon the effects obtainable by varying the construction and stringing of the Æolian harp; but it is of little importance whether the tone be a little louder or a little softer, the impression to be derived from the instrument is as attainable from one of simple build as from double harps, or from one with weighted (spun) strings added.
[ A. J. H. ]
ÆOLIAN MODE. The Æolians, who migrated from Greece to Asia Minor in the 12th century b.c., have the credit of improving the system of the Greek music by the addition of another tetrachord. Very great uncertainty obscures this subject; indeed from the earliest records we can find, it would seem that from time to time the Greek modes experienced those changes, regarded by some as deteriorations, by others (probably) as improvements, to which all living art is necessarily subject. Whether they owed their original impressiveness to the varieties of their intervals, or to some kind of prosodaic time peculiar to each, or to the combination of both, we read the following eulogy on their native energv, and also a lament over their too general neglect, in a quotation cited by Dr. Burney from Heraclides of Pontus, a contemporary of Plato and Aristotle (about 335 b.c.). Describing what he then styled the three most ancient modes, he says, 'the Dorian is grave and magnificent, neither too diffusive, gay, nor varied; but severe and vehement. The Æolian is grand and pompous, though sometimes soothing, as it is used for the breaking of horses, and the reception of guests; and it has likewise an air of simplicity and confidence, suitable to pleasure, love, and good cheer. Lastly, the Ionian is neither brilliant nor effeminate, but rough and austere; with some degree however of elevation, force, and energy. But in these times, since the corruption of manners has subverted everything, the true, original, and specific qualities peculiar to each mode are lost.' (Dissertation on the Music of the Ancients, 4to., p. 60). But there is no doubt that whatever may have been the nature of the Greek modes, we have their counterparts and, as it were, their living descendants in the Ecclesiastical Modes which still bear their names, and are, most likely, if not the same, yet the legitimate inheritors of their peculiar lineaments; nor to fit audience in the present day are they found destitute of their parents' varied and attractive characteristics.
The authentic Æolian mode—or, as it is often called, the Hyper-Æolian—as we now know it, is the ninth of the church modes, scales, or tones, as they are variously called. Its notes range thus—as in the modern minor scale, though without any accidentals in ascending:—
1. The Hyper-Æolian Mode. Authentic.