Soothing Sounds

S.B. Braille Institute’s Healing Harps

The next time you get a migraine, or even a spell of vertigo, don’t reach for the Tylenol — instead, grab a harp. Let its vibrations pulse through your chest and shoulders while its celestial tunes calm all your anxieties. You may be surprised at how much better you feel. That’s the goal of the new Healing Harps program at the Santa Barbara Braille Institute. Well that, and sharing in an age-old tradition that goes back to ancient Babylon. From Biblical times to old Ireland, most bards who told stories backed by harp music were blind. “It was a way for blind people to make a living back then,” said the Braille Institute’s Dr. Jeanne Martin, and the connection is certainly a very deep one. Homer may have chanted his epics to the tune of the harp, and legend has it that King David would play to ease the pain of headaches.

But the harp’s appeal isn’t limited to just musicians and storytellers. Mathematicians like Pythagoras have had an appreciation for the geometrical spacing of its chords, so it’s no wonder the harp is a fairly easy instrument to learn by ear. Anyone who picks one up will find it the perfect tool for self-expression, whether his style is classical or Clapton. Here in town, many of the musically talented students at the institute find that the harp’s therapeutic qualities make it particularly special. Dr. Martin speaks very enthusiastically about the classes: “Our goal is for everyone to play the harp to be uplifted and for their own relaxation.” And there’s something peaceful just in knowing that one of earth’s oldest traditions continues right here in our time.   — Mary Vanderpool

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