Hamden, Connecticut artist Stan Hershonik creates sculptures
and instruments. Most of his work can be played and all provide a source
of amusement. Using gourds and discarded pieces of furniture Stan makes folk
instruments, birds, vases and Aeolian harps. His Aeolian harps are activated
by the wind. Some have frets and may be strummed to produce music.
“ As a boy I read Popular Mechanics magazine.” says Stan. “It was filled with how-tos, blueprints and diagrams for building anything from pinhole cameras to crystal radio sets. There I found an article on building an Aeolian harp. I was intrigued by the notion of free music from the wind.”
At present I make four types of gourd instruments. They include a lute with strings and frets like a mountain dulcimer, a four string banjo that can be tuned like a baritone guitar, an octave guitar, and a three string strumstick. All are made with a gourd body and hardwood necks of either oak or maple. These fretted folk instruments have a pure and simple voice, described as delicate and rich. They are responsive to the touch.
While visiting a friends house my ears picked up a sound unlike any heard before. Long, drawn notes, bowed by some heavenly musician. Maybe a distant train whistle accompanied by faraway church bells. I asked him about this ethereal noise, and he told me his father’s aeolian harp was to blame.
You can make an aeolian harp out of any hard stiff material. My early harps were made of common and exotic woods. I soon started using gourds and discarded pieces of furniture, doors, crutches, folding chairs, whatever I could find.
Gourds were a natural choice for my art. I love their shapes and earth tones but the best thing about gourds is that no two are alike. Consequently if I make several aeolian gourd harps, or fashion them into birds or vases, each one is unique with its’ own personality and character.