I have built a number of very special harps for players to use in various healing situations. I even had a harp the I had created played for me when I was in ICU on full life support, after a nasty allergic reaction ten years ago! It was very soothing to me to hear that harp music, as it seems to be for many, many people who are in intensive care.
Let me know what your special needs are for your healing or therapy harp. I built all my harps to be quite light in weight, with my full sized five octave harps only weighing about 19 lbs. With that in mind, I can build a rich sounding lap sized harp that can weight well under ten lbs. Let me know what you have in mind, and I will be happy to design and build it for you!
Harp therapy is a relatively new field of research and practice which explores the beneficial effects of the timbre of the harp. The harp, with its soothing timbre and spiritual associations, has been revered as a healing instrument by many cultures for thousands of years.
It was perhaps about 3000 years ago in ancient Israel, that a young shepherd boy named David was brought quickly many times in the middle of the night to play his harp before an ailing King Saul. The king had been having nightmares, anger fits and general malaise that was affecting his mind as well as his physical health. When the harp was being played he ‘felt better and the evil spirit departed from Saul”. Powerful words to describe a situation known all too well by many people in our own times.
Harp therapy is a general term used to describe the continuum of types of therapies in which the harp is used. It may be provided at home or in a clinical setting. When therapeutic harp music is played, recipients may receive beneficial effects such as increased relaxation, improvement in sleep, decreased pain and anxiety, stabilization of vital signs, and improvement in mood. An end-of-life music vigil can also help a patient to achieve a peaceful transition.
The servants of King Saul knew that the sounds of the harp were able to have a healing affect on people. They didn’t have the scientific knowledge of why and how, but they did know that something profound happened to people when the harp was played, and so they found the ‘best harpist’ in the land to bring to their ailing king to ease his suffering and bring him moments of peace and well being.
Over 3000 years later, in our generation, recent medical research, studies and testing is showing the ‘why and the how’ of the healing affects of the sound of the harp. The following article is based on some of this research and what is being done in the realm of healing with the sounds of the harp now, in hospitals, private homes and hospices as well as being used in alternative therapies in conjunction with other healing modalities.
Some harpists, trained in other therapeutic disciplines, use the harp in their practices to elicit specific cognitive or behavioral changes. In addition, a harpist might teach an individual to play the harp to assist in pain reduction, to help to overcome physical, mental and emotional challenges, to create a sense of community in a group setting, and to provide physical rehabilitation.
Harp Has The Power to Soothe But It Can Also Heal
Updated: 12:01 a.m. ET Dec. 26, 2005
URBANA, Ill. – When a harpist wearing blue hospital scrubs started playing the familiar strains of Pachelbel’s Canon during Edith Zook’s heart procedure, the scene couldn’t have been more surreal.
Surrounded by cutting-edge medical equipment, the 83-year-old patient lay unconscious and sedated, with skinny electrode-equipped catheters snaking from veins in her right thigh and shoulder into her heart. They provided a conduit for a video monitor showing the squiggly waves of Zook’s irregular heartbeat.
Like some weird sci-fi melding of heaven and high-tech Earth, the musician strummed serenely on her 4-foot Irish harp just a few feet away, while the patient snored and her doctor silently examined the ups and downs of rainbow-colored heart waves on the screen.
The music sounded lovely — but it was meant to help heal, not entertain.
Zook suffers from atrial fibrillation, a fast, irregular heartbeat caused by mixed-up electrical signals generated by the heart’s upper chambers. Zook’s symptoms include unnerving palpitations and troubling fatigue that make her suddenly collapse without warning.
Her doctor, Abraham Kocheril, chief of cardiac electrophysiology at the Carle Heart Center in Urbana, says he has found signs that harp music might help sick hearts like Zook’s beat more normally.
Playing the heart into rhythm
The theory is based partly on work by Dr. Ary Goldberger of Harvard Medical School showing that varied rhythms created by healthy hearts are similar to note patterns in classical music.
Kocheril’s work also fits with a growing music therapy movement, whose supporters believe music can alleviate some of the mental and physical symptoms of disease.
“People know that music relaxes you. We’re just trying to get more medical validation,” said Kocheril’s harpist and co-researcher, Dr. Jennifer MacKinnon, 35, a Chicago internist. She took up harp-playing at age 10 and as a child, used to play for patients of her father, also a physician.
Some enthusiasts believe the harp has special healing qualities and Kocheril said resonant vibrations from live harp music may be particularly effective at regulating quivering heart rhythms. Other musical instruments and recorded music might offer similar benefits, he said, making a “music prescription” easier to follow.
“Potentially, there could be a prescription for music five days a week … to keep the heart healthy in general and specifically to keep rhythm disorders under control,” Kocheril said.
New tool for hospitals?
While he doesn’t foresee the elegant but unwieldy harp becoming a routine fixture during heart operations, others have used harpists in intensive-care units to help normalize sick newborns’ heart rates, after surgery to reduce patients’ anxiety, and during childbirth to soothe mothers in labor.
Psychologist and harpist Sarajane Williams uses the instrument to help patients deal with chronic pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia and other conditions.
Patients at her Macungie, Pa., office sit in a reclining chair embedded with speakers that allow amplified vibrations from her harp-playing to reach deep into aching tissue like “a musical massage,” Williams said.
She says the vibrations help relieve pain by stimulating circulation and relaxing patients.
Harp therapy also is commonly used to soothe dying patients in hospices.
Maureen Reilly, a nurse-anesthetist in San Antonio, Texas, says the harp’s effect on the body can be partly explained by a physics principle called entrainment. This concept describes the influence of one oscillating system over another.
This is just one of the many articles one can find on the web, talking about the use of the harp in healing work. Please let me know what your Healing Harp need are, and how I may assist in your work in this area!
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Follow your Bliss, and live your Life in Joy!
Glenn J. Hill