Burmese Arched Harp

  • Robert M. Williamson


Our knowledge of the history, construction, and tunings of the Burmese arched harp (saùng gauk) comes from a variety of sources. Conversations with master harpists, together with recordings made of their performances between 1960 and 1980, provide richly detailed examples of the effect of Western music on a non-Western musical tradition. Scholars’ essays and conference proceedings complement these first-hand accounts, expanding our understanding of Burmese music and musical instruments.


Modal Scale Western Music Reference Oscillator Scale Note Tunable Band Pass 
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I am indebted to Muriel Williamson for my interest in the Burmese harp and for recordings of its music. Because twenty-first-century Burmese musicians may no longer know the traditional intonations of the harp scale notes, the information provided by Daw Khin May and U Myint Maung is invaluable. John Okell shared his knowledge of Burmese music and provided the recording of U Myint Maung’s tunings. Judith Becker has been generous with her advice and encouragement.


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  4. Morton, D. (1976). The Traditional Music of Thailand. University of California Press, Berkeley.Google Scholar
  5. Williamson, M.C. (1968). The construction and decoration of one Burmese harp. Selected Reports: Instruments of Ethnomusicology 1(2), 45–72.Google Scholar
  6. Williamson, M.C. (2000a). The Burmese Harp: Its Classical Music, Tunings, and Modes. SE Asia Publications, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL.Google Scholar
  7. Williamson, R.M. (2000b). Burmese harp scale pitch measurements. In: Williamson, M.C., The Burmese Harp: Its Classical Music, Tunings, and Modes (2000), SE Asia Publications, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL, pp. 131–153.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsOakland UniversityRochesterUSA

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