Over the past some months, harps have been more a part of my life than usual: I have played (piano) with an orchestral harp; I have toured the workshop of a friend who makes Celtic harps (and indeed I am currently “babysitting” a Celtic harp for another friend); and on a recent visit home, I found that my mother had acquired an autoharp.
What makes a harp a harp? A harp is a chordophone, that is, a musical instrument whose sound is produced by the vibrating of strings; other common chordophones include the piano, guitar, and violin. Like many chordophones, harps include a sound box, which serves to amplify and prolong the sound produced by the strings. The sound box, or resonator, is one of three edges in the triangular shape of the harp; the other two edges are called the neck, to which the strings are attached at the top of the instrument , and a forepillar, which parallels the longest of the strings. The Harvard Dictionary of Music defines a harp as “a chordophone in which the plane of the strings is perpendicular to the soundboard.” According to this definition, my mom’s autoharp isn’t actually a harp, but rather a zither, a chordophone in which the plane of the strings is parallel to the soundboard.
Executant (the voice or instrument that produces the music) gets top billing (i.e., is first in the citation order) in the DDC’s faceted classification of music. The discussion in the Manual note at 780 on the arrangement of the components of complex subjects parallels the instruction at 780 that a subject with aspects in two or more subdivisions of 780 is to be classed in the number coming last. Accordingly, general principles of music and musical forms are found in 781, before vocal music in 782-783 and instrumental music in 784-788 (789 is an optional number). Thus a work on harps will be classed in subdivisions of 787 Stringed instruments (Chordophones), no matter whether it is music for the harp, a critical study of music for the harp, or a work on harps as instruments.
The subdivisions of 787 are organized by families of chordophones. In 787.2–787.6 we find bowed stringed instruments: violins, violas, cellos, double basses, viols, hurdy-gurdies, and more. Plectral chordophones—struck stringed instruments—are found in 787.7–787.9, with zithers in 787.7, lutes in 787.8, and harps and musical bows in 787.9. Autoharps are classed in 787.75 Plucked board zithers, while both orchestral and Celtic harps are classed in 787.95 Frame harps. In all three cases, the specific instrument is named in the including note. This means that no further number building can be done for the specific instrument. For example, The autoharp owner's manual: everything from maintaining to building an autoharp is classed in 787.75 Plucked board zithers itself, without being allowed to follow the instruction given throughout 787 to “add as instructed under 784–788.”
Where a work is not specific to a kind of harp, however, the add instructions at 784–788 make it possible to represent other musical concepts in the class number. Notation for general principles is taken from 781.1–781.7, while notation for musical forms and instruments is taken from 784.18–784.19. Several examples will illustrate:
- The pocket guide to harp composing: a concise, non-technical manual containing all of the information needed to write effectively for any type of harp is classed in 787.913 Harp composition (built with 787.9 Harps and musical bows [the comprehensive number for harps] plus 13 from 781.3 Composition, following instructions in the add table under 784–788).
- Ten Christmas carols: transcribed for the harp with or without pedals is classed in 787.91723 Christmas music for harp (built with 787.9 Harps and musical bows plus 1723 from 781.723 Music of Christmas following instructions in the add table under 784–788).
- Zur Baugeschichte der Harfe : vom Mittelalter bis zum 19. Jahrhundert : 13. Musikinstrumentenbau-Symposium in Michaelstein am 6. und 7. November 1992, a work on the history of harp construction should be classed in 787.9192309 Harp construction (built with 787.9 Harps and musical bows plus 1923 from 784.1923 Construction, following instructions in the add table under 784–788, plus standard subdivision T1—09 History).
- Method for the harp: fundamental exercises with illustrations and technical explanations is classed in 787.9193 Techniques for playing harp (built with 787.9 Harps and musical bows plus 193 from 784.193 Techniques for playing instruments, following instructions in the add table under 784–788).