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The Psychedelic Jew’s Harp

The origins of the magical Jew's Harp may be lost in the depths of prehistory, but the breadth of its presence in human culture ranges far and wide. The Jew's Harp does not actually derive its name from Jewish culture. One etymological thread traces "Jew's Harp" to an Elizabethan pun on the French "jouer au trompe" [to play the trumpet]. The Jew's Harp was an instrument of lackeys, paupers, and witches — low-tech in the lofty musical milieu of the 16th century.

As an ancient shamanic instrument, the Jew's Harp continues to be used for healing by the peoples of Mongolia and Siberia. Groundbreaking hypnotist Dr. Franz Mesmer incorporated the instrument into his early psychotherapy experiments. The Jew’s Harp’s power as a courtship instrument from Bavaria to the Philippines alludes to a potent psychosexual association. Compare the erotic shape of the Jew's Harp to that of the Shiva Lingam, India’s sacred spiritual symbol for the Creative Principle.

The essential intimacy of the Jew’s Harp derives from sensual vibrational interplay with your mouth. Plucking the metal tongue, breathing rhythmically and moving your tongue, shapes the mesmerizing and melodic sound of the Jew’s Harp.

My Psychedelic Jew’s Harp journey begins by marrying the rival demands of singing with simultaneous melodic twanging. This challenging innovation fuses with sophisticated electronics to realize the music of The Psychedelic Jew’s Harp.

I create this music live. No multi-tracking, no playback of pre-recorded material, no sampling. The raw signal of voice and Jew’s Harp feeds into a portable bank of automated processors. Here, various programmatic, architectonic sound spaces frame rhythmic zones within which certain acoustic potentialities reside. These sonic holograms manifest my musical explorations as shape-shifted sound. Seminal acoustics are gestated into new aural forms to birth multi- dimensional soundscapes of interpenetrating pulses and harmonics.

As many may know, "psychedelic" means mind manifesting. The Psychedelic Jew’s Harp project appeared as a vision several years ago and continues to serve my life as a navigator and teacher. My wish would be that this music manifest inspiration in the mind and heart of the listener.

— J. M. Nasim, Dec. 2002