In Europe, we have only archeological remains of several lyres from antiquity and the dark and middle ages – but since the European lyre tradition has died out, we possess only indirect knowledge about how these instruments were played, based on some medieval musical treatises and iconography. The situation is different in Africa: There, various lyres have been played in oral tradition up to our days.
Andy Lowings from England, harpist and lyre enthusiast, has travelled the whole world to meet lyre players and learn from them.
At the NHM 2014, Andy taught how to make lyre music the African way. He described the workshop as follows:
“imple notes for anyone..and put together in a way which will never have been heard before in Norway ! Fun and easy!
Lots of space for anyone. Singers, double bass, guitar; plate-hitters; harpists too….
The more who come.. the better it will be. Anyone can come along!
Music and back-up information, given afterwards so you can go off, and teach it yourselves!
At the NHM 2013, Andy gave a lecture about lyres around the world, talking about lyres as medicine, lyres in graves, lyres on ancient pictures, and his project of re-creating the Golden lyre of Ur from Baghdad museum.
At the NHM 2010, Andy was teaching lyre playing for beginners.
One of the participants described Andy’s workshop: “Andy is well known in the Lyre community for his work reconstructing the Lyre of Ur, so it was a pleasure to find that he was holding a workshop at NHM. He spoke about the project, and more generally about the living tradition of lyre playing in Africa, which can help greatly in our understanding of playing techniques for European lyres and harps. A random selection of harps, kantele, Kravik and Saxon lyres proved no obstacle to learning a polyrhythmic song. Using just 4 strings, we built up a syncopated accompaniment, before learning the song. It was interesting to discover how a deceptively simple riff based accompaniment could become part of a rhythmically complex piece of music. Applying this technique to our own European songs can unlock the complex potential of apparently simple instruments with just 5 or 6 strings.“