Prosiect Telyn Rawn - Project Telyn Rawn

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Doeth yw ymadrawdd hawdd hoyw
Y delyn o rawn duloyw.
Y delyn o rawn, dawn difas...*

Over 600 years ago, harp music of extraordinary beauty and complexity was being performed in Wales on an instrument unlike any modern harp - a harp whose strings were made entirely of strands of horsehair and whose soundbox was likely fitted with pegs to make the strings buzz and hum like a bee. This harp was the Welsh telyn rawn, the "harp of shining black horsehair".

Some of its music may survive in the early 17th century manuscript of Robert ap Huw, one of the last musicians trained in the ancient tradition of cerdd dant. The telyn rawn, however, passed out of existence centuries ago.

What was the telyn rawn like? We don't know. There are no surviving instruments to study. The purpose of this project is to explore possible designs for a horsehair harp by experimenting with the materials that may have been used and by studying existing historical information.

We began by learning to make and test horsehair strings, using an Ardival Gothic bray harp as a test bed. Ken Bloom and David Kortier have each built an experimental horsehair harp with a frame based on 11th century Anglo-Saxon iconography. Ann Heymann made the strings for each from horsehair collected by volunteers in Wales. The wood for Ken's harp was donated from the vicinity of Brecon, Powys. These harps were recently tested in a series of events in Wales (See the photos page for pictures from the concerts and meetings).

Comments on this project are encouraged and warmly welcome. You may contact us at info@telynrawn.org.

Brecon performance
Ann and Charlie Heymann performing at Brecon Cathedral, October 2008. Ann is playing a prototype telyn rawn built by Ken Bloom



Ardival harp re-strung with horsehair

Listen to an experimental recording of an Ardival Gothic bray harp re-strung with horsehair

*Iolo Goch, 14th Century Welsh poem: (Wise is the easy lively expression/ of the harp of shining black horsehair./ The horsehair harp, profound gift...). Translation by Dafydd Johnston, Iolo Goch Poems, Gomer Press, 1993, p. 130.

Updated 6 January, 2009