If the organ is the king of the instruments, then the harp is the queen, surely?
My thought behind the first statement comes in several stages. If the organ is king, then it follows logically that it would have subjects and lower-status instruments in its family. I would originally have posited that the harpsichord stood for queen-ship, but this instrument is still the string-pedal-key type*, so it doesn’t make sense to be equal to a much larger, more insistent guy. At best, the harpsichord can only rank as princess (there’s something very feminine about the word ‘harp’ to me) or prince of the instrument family.
*This makes it seem as if I know less about the mechanics of an organ than I do or still less about the pedal-string application of a harp. I’m oversimplifying, ‘kay?
In another way of looking at it, we could take the king and queen from their sound value – the louder an instrument can be, the higher their royal ranking. This may also be on a par with physical size as well as aural; the organ fits both category requirements well. But as do a lot of instruments….
Then there’s some logic in supposing that the organ is king of the instruments for his/its spiritual value; the organ has been used for symphonies, cantatas, masses big and small since the ‘beginning’ of music – or commercial music, I suppose. As well as having been there for a long time, the organ is the base of the idea of chords and choral and melodic differences. Plus, it can belt out whatever sort of sound.
In this way, the organ pretty much rules!
That said, I now feel I have made my justification task a whole lot harder.
However, though she/it may not be the largest of instruments, the harp brings something new to the table, whilst still being something old. It is of my opinion that the harp can be a spiritual instrument (it’s mentioned in the Bible and with the stereotypical angelic Host image) and its sound produced is a magnificent blend of gentle harmony and string aesthetics.
The harp has been around possibly longer than the organ itself, or some variety has. Ever since humanity has understood how to make a melodic stringed instrument, they have done so, with the lyre and the popular cithara. My guitar is only the baby of the string family (or should that be ‘servant’ in the royal ranking?).
The harp may not be the loudest of instruments, but its position in the string family is clearly quite a high one. It’s one of the bigger string instruments and, whilst being accessible on many levels, it can also be altered and played in all manner of ways.
Thus, I think the harp is a well deserved queen!
It’s not that I am discrediting the sound value of other instruments, but the organ and harp are two that are synonymous with importance in musical society. As for other families, I see brass up there as highly-respected courtiers for their amazing sound value, if not for size or background wealth. I’m particularly a fan of the horn section when played to perfection.