The magic of the Lyre

Today’s resurgence of an ancient mythical instrument

     “ The Greeks did not have the word “humanity” till Orpheus with the sound of  his lyre  made humans from animals. After that the notion of this word was the art of their Muse. In its  own right Orpheus  lyre was risen to the stars. It did more than Hercules with his mace, it made the nonhuman human”        (Herder) 

  A bit unnoticed, on the border of the musical scene of the cultural world, hidden away in some corners of music pedagogues and therapists, an old stringed instrument, the lyre,  is gaining new life and more diffusion. When its  “re-inventor”  the German music pedagogue, Edmund Pracht,  1926, made propositions to build a stringed instrument intended for  therapeutic work  in pedagogic healing,  he was not aware that he would  give new life to one of the oldest musical instruments with strings and that it would find ample diffusion and  uses in many  fields of life.

  Lyre Myth



We  have all heard sometimes of the lyre. An ancient instrument, ej. the Celtic lyre or the  Lyra of the Greeks, also known as the kithara (= root of the wordguitarra -guitar). The authors of the antiquity, such as Plato, tell about how the sound of the lyre at the mystery plays, contributed, changing and enchanting people. An almost a magical effect – in a positive way – is ascribed to it. in many old legends and mythologies. The harmonising effect its sound produces did not only change humans, but also animals and mythological beings.

As told of the legendary Orpheus: as he went down to the underworld in search of Euridice.  who was someone like a soul mate to him. He enchanted everybody he encountered. “Persephone is overcome from his chant. The Erynnien, the four judges of death, weep, Cerberus, the dog of hell becomes tame, the Parcae pick the thread of life up again, Charon leaves his boat and comes to listen. The shadows of the dead crowd around the holy singer, the penitents forget their suffering, the tormentors leave them alone, as long as Orpheus sings. Into the world of death a soft air blows a breath of life."(Karl von Baltz). 

Another myth tells how Amphion, a son of Zeus and founder of Theben, played on
 the lyre to build the town;  as he played, the stones ordered themselves together '
and erected the walls.    

     But then over centuries nothing was heard about this “mythical” instrument.

 Lyreplayer in antique Minos   


Renaissance of the Lyre

back to the beginning    

    In the  year 1926 , the music pedagogue Edmund Pracht made suggestions to his friend, Lothar Gärtner and inspired him with a simple drawing. to build a  stringed instrument. It should have one string for each tone, similar to the harp, but had to be much smaller and handier. He hoped that such an instrument, with its sweet sound would appeal to his handicapped patients at the Institute for Health Pedagogy and furthermore would be easy to play. He did not think of the lyre specifically, in the historical sense. The subsequent development and multiple applications during the next decades showed that he, with his initiative, helped this ancient instrument to its never thought of renaissance. Soon it reached over curative pedagogy to be used in kindergartens, in  general schooling, as instrument to create a specific mood for storytelling or puppet theatre.

 Also in the care of the aged, and in the assistance to dying persons, the lyre has shown its comforting harmonious effect.

 Parallel to this development over the years appeared, according to the use, a rich music literature for the lyre. Next to adaptation of known masterpieces from the music literature so far as they were suited for the lyre - specific works were written for lyre ensembles, lyre choruses, for virtuoso soloist performances, lyre accompaniments for singers, pieces for the lyre and other instruments, for puppet theatre, for the celebrations as the seasons change and for the renewed services at the "Christian Community"


The Lyre stimulates regions of the soul that are not reached by other instruments

back to the beginning   

    At the kindergarten age and during the first two primary school years we recommend the Pentatonic tuning, music applied in the Waldorf pedagogy. There are no halftones as in the major- and minor- scales. Instead the music has a mobile, an associative ductus. For this aim, special pentatonic lyres were build, best suited for the child of this age and to get it to listen with attention  

One teacher at a elementary school tells us about a successful storytelling hour.

     A gnome lives in a little cave, near a lake, orders the spiders to make him a net and goes to hunt with it.  First he catches a little goldfish, puts him in a glass of water and keeps him in his cave. The raven manages to rescue the poor fish. The next victim is a butterfly and then he catches a frog with a lasso that he made with hair from his whiskers.

       Granny Morla lives near the lake. She sees all the injustices the gnome does and wants to put a stop to his deeds. Granny Morla goes with her backpack to the lake, hides among some bushes, takes the magic instrument out of her knapsack and starts to play” As I go on telling,  -  explains the teacher  -  I take the lyre from its case, unwrap it and start to play and sing. The delicate sound from the instrument has an almost magical character. The children listen with the greatest attention. How long the impression persists in the children’s mind shows from the remark of a very unruly child. At the end of the weekly talk, he said, “I liked the magic music best “. Another normally very unattentive child gave me a crayon drawing in which the lyres had a preferential place. 

       Children blossom with experience. Experiences are in this context things that are felt, experienced and verbally expressed. It is to be hoped that more teachers find the courage to sing, play and make music at the classroom and put a greater range of tone, moods and vibrations into the formation and education process, than normally indicated or compulsory.(The story was extracted from the book “Liputto” by Jakob Streit, Ed. Urachhaus)   


With the crossover to the 9th year a time in which the children awake to a greater sense of realty, the step to diatonic scales should be made: the known major and minor tone modes: now we have a set basic tone with which the pieces end – and have to end – and other form giving elements come to the foreground  too.  A small handicap of those instruments, they are mostly constructed and tuned in such a way that they are limited to one scale. To play in other tone modes, they have to be tuned first. And this, as we know, is so unpopular with children and adults that it is almost never done. Not even by those who have a trained ear. This handicap is now overcome with a children’s lyre from Argentina- it was given the name “David’s Harp” simple and manufactured at low cost, it permits making music without prior tuning in various different tone modes.  (for more details see below: Offer of lyres). Or get a better deal and buy the following size instrument direct, the Small Sopran Lyre with 27 strings (a little more than a two octave range with all the half tones) closed resonance body and of course a much richer and differentiated sound. (Such models are also built at low cost in Argentina) 


Let us listen to the report of the experience of a teacher (Switzerland).

     It was an unsettled day, the children came unruly and fighting from the recess. Due to a meeting I was late. The revolution in the classroom could be heard from far away. How to calm down those excited children? With some commanding gestures I ordered the children to their places. One child sat under the teacher’s desk. Without hurrying I took the lyre from its case, sat down on a chair and started to play. Immediately there was calm, harmony and thoughtfulness. Even the girl under the desk, who was dreaded as a wild fighter, returned happily to her place. This calm and internal order lasted almost half an hour during which the children were busy, devoted themselves to drawing with crayons: The king as he walked over the mysterious bridge was playing and singing in the calm of the late afternoon. Meanwhile the dragon slept under the bridge.” 

    A female pedagogue from a boarding school reports: In my group I have got a ten year old boy, who from time to time is very unsettled and distracted. He then does very silly things and afterwards he cannot explain why he did them in the first place. Of course this is very irritating. So I have begun to play the lyre with him: three times a week, after which he is always completely changed. A completely different spirit appears in the child.   


The Lyre  - an instrument even for very weak children.      back to the beginning

    Children undergoing health therapy usually cannot manage the instruments used at school. Even the Orff instruments are not appropriate. The sound of the lyre nevertheless gets the attention of these cared for children. How can we understand this? The secret of the lyre lies in its floating tones, they remain a little longer in the air and the chords do not end abruptly, as in most instruments. From a such great assortments of lyres, differentiated in tone and tone volume, a suitable lyre can be found even for a very weak or frail child, with which it can, in its own free or guided play, live to enjoy music. I myself could see very satisfied and overjoyed handicapped children, after they were permitted to accompany a choir on Bordun lyres. To get this accompaniment three Bordun lyres were tuned each in one of three different tones (Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant) and three children only had at some special parts of the song - the teachers helps with a gesture –  to let their hand glide over the strings and produce the harmonic sound. You could see how satisfied they where, to accomplish such an important task well.


     A music therapist tells about the harmonising effect of the lyre with children requiring special care for the soul. One six year old boy had difficulty in getting to sleep. Even with lyre melodies the therapist did not achieve much the boy only mimicked the melodies some what forced, or he went ahead of them. But as soon as he himself played the situation changed. Fully absorbed, he listened to the flowing sound, his breathing calmed, became regular and deeper and in no time he was asleep.  Everybody who has worked in therapy knows the distressing problems with spastic paralyzed children: We observed a clear relaxation of the tensed muscles, when we made them listen to lyre sounds.  One six year old boy, who sometimes was victim to extreme unsettled periods gave proof of the healing strength of the lyre. His bouts could be life threatening because his circulatory system became so weak. A great help, at the beginning of the bout was the action of the therapist. He put the child with his back on a big Tenor lyre, with deep tuning. Then he started to play with even movements, building chord from deep to higher tones. Later he did the same from high to deeper chords to the deepest one. Those lyres, with their deep resonance produced pleasant, easy to feel vibrations in the child  and the calming effect was almost immediate.( For details of this  report and other therapeutic and pedagogic results, please see

The Lyre – friend and helper in the nursing of the aged      back to the beginning

     Let us hear what the aged Mrs. Elisabeth Gaertner tells about her experience with older people. She names it “ the enchanting light filled effect of the lyre... ” that “... “with its flowing sound takes all everyday  tensions and pains out of the soul”. Even for the unskilled to play the lyre with her simple handling, gives deep happy satisfaction. People in bed or in a wheelchair can handle the lyre if put on their lap or their bed covers, they can make music touching the strings and feel happiness.  The fear that they do not know what to play is easily overcome, the lyre tells ... The lyre has a  special role at a persons deathbed  when the task is  to prepare and help the person by the effect of calming, flowing, sweet sound without any  heaviness, to comfort the person in their last steps before passing away

Actual news: 

Japanese Culture open for the Lyre                        back to the beginning

In December 2001 the japanese pop-singer Yumi Kimura gained a very important award of  japanese pop-music for her song „All with me“, which is accompanied only by one instrument: a lyre, which is played by Yumi Kimura herself. Thereupon  the lyre varios times was presented in japanese TV  and press.

   Once more this song caused a sensation at Berlin Movie Festival, the „Berlinale“; this time  as main music in the movie in „Spirited away“, which won the “·Golden Bear” a very high prize. In Japan this movie already in 2001 was  the most succesful movie.  We suppose the author of the movie choose the lyre to help to understand the experience of the transcendental.

   Since this you notice a growing demand for lyres among japanese musicians.   

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   We would like to draw the attention of the visitors of our home-page to the fact, that the lyres of  Lira Aurelio easily reach in aspects of standards of construction as also in quality of sound to the kind of european lyre, which was played by Yumi Kimura. The moderate prices of  Lira Aurelio - lyres are until 50% below the common prices of european productors. 

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The lyre – a way to new experiences in music?                  back to the beginning

   The aforementioned stories about the effects of the lyre seem so fantastic, that we commonly relegate them to the region of mythology, without thinking any more about the message in the illustrations. But if we suspect with good reason that people from ancient cultures and ways of life were much more permeable to musical sounds, the almost magical effect of the lyre becomes more understandable. People of our day cannot be seen as permeable any more; we are permanently invaded, against our will, with “acoustic electronic stimulus”. We do not come to have a deep, vivid internal feeling of music any more. so I do not like to call it music. One tends to ask, can a machine really make music? Where is the player who in a given situation makes music for the audience?

    Could it be that the sign that the lyre has had such an extraordinary diffusion since its re birth is because a resurgent feeling for real, living and not manipulated musical sounds, will appear and will need special care?  


Many different forms of lyres

back to the beginning 

        An antique musical instrument has been awakened to new life, to enrich the soul.

     The modern methods of instrument building, combined with centuries of experience in the building of stringed instruments, generated a very renovated impulse to culture.

    Beyond the ample use of the lyre in psychic treatment and health pedagogy, other luthiers have taken this impulse, modified it on their own and developed it further. Their intention has been the search to obtain new sounds, which in their character could not be achieved with classical instruments. In the mean time we have an ample spectrum of different types of lyres starting with the small 7 string pentatonic lyres, to the children’s lyres, big and small Soprano , Solo Soprano, big  and  small Contralto, Tenor, Bass, Bordun,  and also a 54 string big standing lyre. like a harp


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