The Favorite Music of Henry David Thoreau
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The Favorite Music of Henry David Thoreau
Thoreau was fascinated by the "Aeolian harp",
so much so that he built his own harp, pictured below...
An Aeolian harp (also wind harp) is a musical instrument that is played by the wind. Named for Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the wind, the traditional Aeolian harp is essentially a wooden box including a sounding board, with strings stretched lengthwise across two bridges. It is often placed in a slightly opened window where the wind can blow across the strings to produce sounds. The strings can be made of different materials (or thicknesses) and all be tuned to the same pitch, or identical strings can be tuned to different pitches. Besides being the only strung instrument played solely by the wind, the Aeolian harp is the only stringed instrument that plays solely harmonic frequencies.
Thoreau was fascinated by the aeolian harp, and also mentioned many times in his journals his amazement at what he called the "telegraph harp", the sound created by the humming waves from the wires of the telegraph lines radiating radiating in the wooden telegraph poles.
We have created five audio files, of Aeolian wind harps.
(Note: The audio of a wind harp is at times softer than normal instruments.)
Thoreau's Favorite Songs
There are many mentions in letters and writing about Thoreau showing that he was quite fond of music, and also dancing. One of his favorite songs was a sea song, called Tom Bowling.
From the book:
As Remembered By A Young Friend
by Edward Waldo Emerson
"In the reed-pipes of Pan slept the notes of enchantment for him to wake at will. Our Concord genius of the wood was a master of the flute. It was his companion in his life there and the echoes of Walden hills were his accompaniments.'
Music was an early and life-long friend. His sisters made home pleasant with it. The sweet tunes of Mrs. Hawthorne's music-box were a comfort to him in the lonely days after John's death. "Row, Brothers, Row," which I have heard him sing, recalled the happy river-voy-age; and no one who heard "Tom Bowling " from Thoreau could ask if he were capable of human feeling.
To this day that song, heard long years ago, rings clear and moving to me.
He studied the songs of birds as eagerly as many a man how to make money. "
"While Thoreau was visiting this family Mrs. Ricketson, playing on the piano, asked \him if he cared for music and whether he sung. "Yes," he answered, " I am fond of music, and when I am in the woods I sometimes sing." She asked him to sing to the family. He answered, " Oh, I fear if I do I shall take the roof of the house off.
"His hostess urged him, and sat down to play the accompaniment, and he sang his favorite " Tom Bowling " with spirit and feeling, giving the full sentiment of the verses.
Alcott and George William Curtis were both visiting Mr. Ricketson, and interesting discourse had gone on at the dinner, Thoreau talking very well. After dinner, Aleott and Curtis went with Mr. Ricketson to his " Shanty" for serious talk, but the others went into the parlor to consult some bird book. Mrs. Ricketson, playing at her piano, struck into " The Campbells are Coming." Thoreau put down his book and began to dance — a sylvan dance, as of a faun among rocks and bushes in a sort of labyrinthine fashion, now leaping over obstacles, then advancing with stately strides, returning in curves, then coming back in leaps. Alcott, coming in, stood thunderstruck to see "Thoreau acting his feelings in motion" as he called it."
Thoreau was also quite fond of Thomas Moore's "Evening Bells", the Moore's Canadian Boat Song, and the well known song The Cambells Are Coming.
We have also prepared a PDF file that contains the notation Thoreau's favorite songs and dance tune...
The Canadian Boat Song and
The Cambells are Coming
We have also included an arrangement of the famous Concord Hymn poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson that Thoreau participated in singing at a public ceremony in Concord.
This product contains the 5 wind harp recordings the PDF file of Thoreau's favorite songs.
You can listen to an audio sample of the wind harps at: