Stories from the Harp: Our Furry Companions

Jun 29, 2016

Music isn't just for humans, and today we're sharing a little collection of stories that were sent to us about the therapeutic effects of music on our four-legged furry friends.

From Ann Robinson:

"My cat loves my new D670. Since I've had it, she comes and sits under it while I play. Today, she had the whole floor to choose from and decided to lie right up next to the leg. I wonder if she's getting a cat massage from the bass vibrations radiating down to the floor."


From Dr. Tracy Baker:

"I play my harp every night just before bedtime.  It is a fitting end to the day and it calms my wife and I.  It gives us a sense of well being since we both love the sound as it fills the house.  What is most enlightening is what it does to my wife's Bichon Frise Dogs.  If they are not already up on the bed, they immediately jump up there.  Then they immediately lie down and fall asleep.  They are gentle dogs but it brings to mind the saying by William Congreve in 1670 'Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast', often misquoted as 'Music has charms to soothe the savage beast.'  Either way, it is true."

From Nancy Downie:

"Although this series is called "Stories from the Harp", hammered dulcimer players can (and do!) provide therapeutic music in healthcare settings.  I have many bedside stories, but instead I will tell my somewhat unique "tail" about how I was led to healing music.

In 2000, our daughter had an opportunity to work in France, but she couldn't take her cat, a sweet, shy little girl named Kaia.  Being good kitty grandparents, we decided to adopt her.  Upon arrival at our very big, strange, scary house, Kaia did what most kitties would do in such circumstances.  She hid behind the washing machine.

I had been playing the hammered dulcimer for about a year.  I wasn't very good yet, but I loved the dulcimer's sweet sound, and playing it always had a calming effect on me.  I wondered if Kaia might find it soothing too.  So I started playing "Southwind" with my soft hammers.  After a few minutes, I saw a little black face with big yellow eyes peek around the corner.  She crept out of her hidey hole and sat at the other end of the family room, watching and listening for a long time.  By the next day, she was curled up at my feet while I played.  For the remaining 14 years of her life, she loved the dulcimer and would often jump up on my lap while I practiced.

I wondered if the sweet sounds of the hammered dulcimer might have the same effect on people.  Soon after Kaia joined our family, I learned about the Music for Healing and Transition Program and began taking their classes.  Unlike some of the other therapeutic music programs, MHTP welcomes many different instrumentalists and vocalists, not just harpists.  I became a Certified Music Practitioner in 2003.  In 2005, we moved from Michigan to Oregon.  I have served in many different settings but currently volunteer 8 hours a week in several units of Oregon Health Sciences University Hospital, including Bone Marrow Transplant, Adult Oncology and Cardiology.  The patients and staff find the music soothing and relaxing.  In addition, they are often intrigued by the hammered dulcimer (many have never seen or heard one before), and their interest in the instrument helps take their minds off of their troubles."

If you have a personal story, photo or video that speaks to the therapeutic power of music, we would love to share it as part of this series! You can contact us here.

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Posted by Judy Tucker on
I used to have a calico cat who looked much like the one in Dr. Tracy's picture. She used to climb up in my lap when I played guitar (before I started harp). She was a music cat. Then I had a part Siamese who would leave the room when music started. Now we live with a big orange tabby Tom, and he will often come into the room where I practice and sleep close by.
Posted by Dr. Tracy Baker on
I started playing the harp late in my life-about 3 years ago and I am 65 now. I had always wanted to play some instrument due to my intense love of music. I love most kinds of music, but only if they reinforce my strong belief that music is intended to express the deeply held emotions that no words can. I have Irish heritage and began to be enamored with Celtic music when I heard the Celtic Woman series and particularly the harp and music of Orlagh Fallon. I had no initial intent initially learn to play the harp. But I saw an advertisement for a small Heather harp that was very ornate and I bought it more for a house ornament than anything else. With a busy medical practice, I felt that I didn't really have time to learn an instrument. I was wrong! I began to play that Heather harp and soon outgrew it and was considering purchasing a larger one. Then a patient with my love of music told me about a Dusty Strings FH36B harp for sale near my current home town. I went to see it and fell in love with it. After buying it, I avidly began playing it and noticed something strange about it. One day when sitting about 3 feet behind it in my TV room and talking on the phone, I noticed that it was making some sounds on its own. I don't believe in ghosts except the Holy Ghost, but the sound gave me goosebumps! I realized what was happening-my voice was hitting the sound box and vibrating the strings, which in turn sounded through the sound box. My instrument was responding to my voice! I have a very loud sneeze and noticed when I sneezed, even across the room, my harp would play the notes of my sneeze!
I have learned a number of pieces of music on my harp including "Ode to Joy", "Isle of Inisfree", "What Child is This(Greensleeves)" and others and clearly understand why the harp is considered an angelic instrument. I don't play as well as I would like but get better each day. What a joy it is!
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