Glass harmonica Franklin&#39

Glass harmonica Franklin&#39

Elijah
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Glass
Harmonica

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MUSIC OF THE SPHERES: THE GLASS HARMONICA

By Elijah Wald © 1996

Gerhard Finkenbeiner was visiting Paris when he saw his first
glass harmonica. It was in a museum, exhibited as a curiosity from
the 18th century, and the label said little more than that it had
been invented by Benjamin Franklin and was favored by Mozart. As
a glass blower, Finkenbeiner was fascinated by its gleaming row
of crystal bowls and set out to get more information. "I got
a book which explained all the hocus-pocus about it, the stories
about it having supernatural powers," Finkenbeiner says. "And
I said, ‘One day I’m going to make one, as soon as I have the time
and the glass.’ "

Forty years after that first encounter, Finkenbeiner is adding
a chapter to the odd saga of Franklin’s instrument. Over the last
decade, he has established his Waltham glass factory as the world’s
foremost source for the glass harmonica, or "armonica,"
as it was originally called. His instruments have been played on
recordings and at venues ranging from Cambridge street corners to
the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, and his ads on WCRB-FM have
made his name familiar to local classical-music listeners. Inspired
by his example, other harmonica makers have sprung up in both the
United States and Europe, but he remains the only person producing
the instruments on a regular basis.

Finkenbeiner rises from behind his desk to welcome a visitor to
his factory, which specializes in glass for scientific and technical
uses. To his left hangs a portrait of Franklin, with a note tucked
in the edge of its frame praising the excellence of Finkenbeiner’s
instruments, signed in a decent imitation of Franklin’s hand. The
office walls are adorned with a haphazard mix of patent certificates,
commendatory plaques, and pictures of harmonica players with their
instruments — so many that the area over the desk is beginning
to look like an impromptu collage.

Finkenbeiner leans forward, talking quickly and enthusiastically,
occasionally pausing to sketch a rough diagram. His accent and much
of his syntax recall his German background and, with his bright
eyes and perplexed, nervous energy, give him the air of a cheerfully
eccentric inventor from a children’s film.

Though most people think of glass blowing as an archaic skill,
Finkenbeiner says that the craft is still in great demand in the
scientific world. He is one of some 500 scientific glass blowers
in the United States, and his company has almost more work than
it can keep up with. "It’s different from the old glass blowers,
who made their own glass in a kiln and used a metal pipe to make
all kinds of goblets and things," he says. "But there
are many things we do today: for Raytheon, for MIT, Harvard, and
all the research companies around here. It’s always one-of-a-kind,
and it must be modified, and there the glass blower is very important
and rare. We are always busy, because there are so few of us."

When Benjamin Franklin invented the glass harmonica in 1761, glass
blowing was still the standard way of producing virtually all glassware.
At the time, Franklin was living in England as a Colonial envoy.
He spent much of his time consorting with his fellow scientific
enthusiasts in the Royal Society, and it was through them that he
became fascinated with the musical glasses.

”You have doubtless heard the sweet tone that is drawn from a
drinking glass by passing a wet finger round its brim," he
wrote to an Italian friend. ”One Mr. Puckeridge, a gentleman from
Ireland, was the first who thought of playing tunes, formed of these
tones. He collected a number of glasses of different sizes, fixed
them near each other on a table, and tuned them by putting into
them water more or less, as each note required."

Typically, Franklin saw room for improvement. "I wished only
to see the glasses disposed in a more convenient form, and brought
together in a narrower compass, so as to admit of a greater number
of tones," he wrote. Teaming up with a local glass blower,
he procured 37 glass bowls, ground them to the appropriate pitches,
then threaded them one inside another on a spindle that could be
turned with a foot treadle. When a player placed his or her wetted
fingers on the edge of the spinning bowls, several notes would be
in reach of either hand, making it possible to play chords and complex
arrangements.

Franklin called his instrument the armonica, from the Italian word
for harmony, and the name was shortly Anglicized to harmonica. He
was thoroughly pleased with his invention, declaring, "Its
tones are incomparably sweet beyond those of any other." Many
listeners agreed. There is a story that, on his return to America,
Franklin reassembled the harmonica one night in the attic of his
home, and, when he began to play, his wife woke thinking she had
died and was hearing the music of angels.

Finkenbeiner, who is originally from Constance, on the German-Swiss
border, had grown up hearing about the instrument’s unique tone.
"I come from a musical family, and in Germany the glass harmonica
was still quite well known," he says, pronouncing the name
as one word, the Germanic Glasharmonika. "It was still taught
in school — the history of it, at least — because many composers,
like Mozart, loved it for its special sound."

When Finkenbeiner saw the instrument in Paris, he was entranced,
though it was 25 years before circumstances allowed him to make
his first working model. In the meantime, he devoted some of his
spare time to exploring the musical properties of glass. Since the
end of World War II, he had been employed by the French Navy, blowing
glass for infrared detectors, but he also developed a sideline making
glass church bells and, later, glass carillons.

The bells are a quirky invention that would have been right up
Franklin’s alley. A set in the office, which serves as both alarm
and door chime, consists of three glass crosses revolving in a metal
case that looks rather like an electric oven. Each cross has a thin
glass fiber running through it, which is hit twice in each revolution
by a glass bead. The sound of glass on glass, amplified by an electronic
pickup, is uncannily like that of a bronze bell.

A walk through Finkenbeiner’s halls makes it clear that his interest
in the special properties of glass is not confined to sound. Here
and there are odd gizmos he has created over the years. Little glass
divers, neatly blown in human forms, rise and fall in a pressurized
water tank. A glass wheel twirls on a glass thread inside a blown-glass
vacuum tube; it has been twirling steadily since 1991, twisting
first one way and then the other, but never breaking. "Every
few days we have to give it a little push, but it keeps going,"
Finkenbeiner says. "If it was metal, it would have broken long
ago, but glass doesn’t fatigue."

The push he gives the apparently delicate object is hearty and
offhand, as if glass were the least breakable of substances. Indeed,
as he moves through the factory’s main room, he handles glass in
a way that is rather alarming. He taps thin glass bowls to show
their sound qualities; he casually heats a tube and shatters it,
by immersing it in cold water, to demonstrate its inferiority to
the heat-resistant quartz glass he favors. Warning that there will
be a bit of a pop, he even blows and bursts a balloon of glass,
smiling as glittering tissues flutter to the floor.

In the workroom, shelves hold stacks of harmonica bowls, each marked
with the note it will sound. Finkenbeiner makes the bowls on a large
lathe, which holds a 6-foot glass tube. Donning bifocals with welder’s
glass on the bottom, he sets the lathe spinning and lights a semicircular
gas jet, enveloping the tube in blue flame. As it gets hot, the
glass glows so brightly that it is impossible to look at it with
the naked eye. Through a length of rubber tubing, Finkenbeiner gently
blows air into the spinning tube, and the heated section balloons
into an ellipsoid bulb that, when cut in half, will form two bowls.

Finkenbeiner cannot control the exact thickness of the bowls, so
each must be tested to see which note it makes, then fine-tuned
by grinding its sides. Finkenbeiner can get 20 bowls from each glass
tube, which gives him a terrific advantage over 18th-century manufacturers
like Ferdinand Pohl, the dean of harmonica builders. "He didn’t
have glass tubing," Finkenbeiner explains. ”He had to pick
the liquid glass out of an oven and make a tube himself, and then,
while it was still hot, he could blow one bulb. But he had to do
it all by hand."

Pohl, a joiner from a small town in Bohemia, worked out his own
methods for making harmonicas by trial and error, using as a model
the glass bells placed over fine clocks. The story is that he spent
months constructing his first instrument, and, when he opened the
workroom door to announce his success to his wife, a draft slammed
it shut and jolted a portrait of St. John off the wall, smashing
his masterpiece to bits. A pamphlet by Pohl’s grandson describes
how "in his despair the unhappy man . . . stamped violently
on the poor saint," but, "blessed by nature with a great
deal of perseverance," he went on to international success,
eventually producing some 4,000 instruments.

Whereas Pohl was inspired by clock bells, Finkenbeiner was spurred
by a job he undertook for IBM in the early 1980s. While constructing
furnace tubes to be used in making semiconductors, Finkenbeiner
had to seal off one end to create a vacuum, then later cut the end
off and discard it. It was while looking at the discarded ends that
he had an idea. ”What we left over was looking just like a glass
harmonica cup," he remembers. "So I started saving these
ends. It was quartz, the best-quality glass, and after a year I
had almost a hundred different cups. They needed to be tuned, of
course, but that gave me the start. I made one harmonica, and, when
it was done, I was fascinated by the sound. It was so great. And
nobody had heard one, because, in the museums, they don’t let you
touch them." The harmonica had largely disappeared by the early
1800s, after a vogue of more than three decades. At its peak, it
had been among the half-dozen most common instruments for amateur
parlor musicians, so popular that the first mouth-organ manufacturers
appropriated its name for their product. Its fame was spread by
Marianne Davies, an English relative of Franklin’s, who quickly
mastered the instrument and had several successful European tours.
During a residence at the Viennese Imperial Court, Davies was instructor
to both the young Archduchess Maria Antonia, better known as Marie
Antoinette, and the soon-to-be-notorious hypnotist Franz Anton Mesmer.
It was also during Davies’ Viennese stay that the instrument came
to the attention of the composer whose work would give it lasting
fame, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then 13 years old.

The Mozart-Mesmer connection provides an odd byway to the harmonica
story. Mesmer was a patron of Mozart’s, the first to present an
opera by the young prodigy. He was also a harmonica aficionado,
and a letter from Mozart’s father is highly complimentary regarding
both Mesmer’s instrument and his playing. Unfortunately, in the
next decades he would become known as a wonder-working charlatan
with questionable morals, and the harmonica, which he used to relax
his patients, suffered a parallel decline in reputation. Its ethereal
vibrations were blamed for various nervous conditions, and stories
circulated of strange afflictions that beset players and listeners
alike.

Some historians have suggested that the problems were real, caused
by lead from the glass leaching into the fingers of performers,
but others have pointed out that many harmonica enthusiasts, Mesmer
and Franklin among them, lived to a ripe old age. A harmonica instruction
book from 1788 includes a preface defending the instrument against
"prejudices which have crept into people’s minds as easily
as have its tones." Public sentiment was turning ugly, and,
after a child died during a concert in Germany, the harmonica was
banned in some regions as a public danger.

Finkenbeiner still sounds a bit defensive when he talks about the
rumors. ”They would say things like, ‘Don’t play at midnight, because
the ghosts will come out,’ " he says, with an air of only half-amused
irritation. "They really believed in this, and that’s not true;
it’s just a nice sound."

Despite such worries, the harmonica remained popular into the early
19th century. It reached its highest standing through the performances
of Mozart’s cousin, the blind virtuoso Marianne Kirchgessner, whose
phenomenal technique inspired dozens of composers. Mozart himself,
in his last year, composed for her what are still considered the
two most important pieces in the glass repertoire, the unaccompanied
Adagio in C Major and the Adagio and Rondo for Harmonica, Flute,
Oboe, Viola, and Cello.

Even in its waning years, the harmonica’s charms were powerful
enough to attract major composers. Beethoven wrote a brief piece
for it, and Donizetti used it in his 1835 opera Lucia di Lammermoor,
though the instrument’s bad reputation may account for the fact
that it appears only to accompany Lucia’s ”mad scene." By
that time, even such a back-handed compliment was given with difficulty.
The composer was unable to find any harmonicist proficient enough
to play his score and so was forced to rewrite the part for flute,
giving the harmonica a simpler role, providing background atmosphere.

Harmonicas survived for an additional 100 years in corners of Eastern
Europe, but the Franco-Prussian War and World War I resounded with
great crashes of shattering glass, and the few surviving instruments
were relegated to dusty corners in lucky museums. By 1956, when
the American organist E. Power Biggs attempted a revival in a concert
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the harmonica had
become the stuff of folklore. Top glass manufacturers and instrument
makers collaborated to build him an instrument that would use a
keyboard rather than direct finger contact, but the final product
sounded awful, and Biggs ended up playing the Adagio and Rondo on
the flute stops of his organ.

A breakthrough of sorts came in 1964, when a German musician named
Bruno Hoffmann recorded his Music for Glass Harmonica. In an ironic
twist, however, Hoffmann’s instrument was not a harmonica but rather
its predecessor, the musical glasses, though his were ground to
pitch rather than tuned with water. (Hoffmann became a friend of
Finkenbeiner’s, and the current notes to his recording call his
instrument a "glass harp.")

Following Hoffmann’s lead, musical-glass players began to pop up
on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was only with Finkenbeiner’s
appearance that Franklin’s creation once again moved to center stage.
On the second floor of his factory, Finkenbeiner has a room set
aside for music, and here one can see the harmonica in all its glory.
It is not the only instrument in the room — there are also two
Finkenbeiner carillons and an electronic keyboard — but there is
no question which holds the place of honor.

The harmonica is a lovely thing to look at. The bowls, three octaves’
worth, placed one inside the next, form a gleaming, tapered cylinder,
the sharps and flats highlighted with gold. Finkenbeiner has replaced
Franklin’s treadle with an electric motor but has remained true
to tradition by mounting his instrument in a fine wooden case.

Though modest about his musical abilities, Finkenbeiner is more
than happy to play and is willing to give a visitor a try as well.
First, however, he must scrub his hands until they squeak, removing
every trace of oil, so as to get the proper friction on the glass.
Even the water itself can be important. Depending on its mineral
content, it can make playing more or less difficult, and one of
Finkenbeiner’s early customers, Vera Meyer, has a horror story about
giving a concert in a town that had particularly soft water — she
was not able to get a single note out of the instrument.

Indeed, the arcana of harmonica water are subjects unto themselves.
Old books insist that the same water be used for washing and playing,
and present- day artists often travel with their own distilled water.
"In the drug stores of the old time, they had shelves full
of glass-harmonica water in bottles," Finkenbeiner says, with
evident amusement. "With secret ingredients to play better.
It was probably just alcohol, to eliminate the grease. But there
were that many glass harmonicas around."

Finkenbeiner uses ordinary Waltham tap water, and, once all the
oil has been removed from his fingers, he dips them in a dish that
sits handy beside the instrument and begins to play.

Even after hearing recordings and seeing pictures, it is a magical
moment. As his fingers touch the edges of the bowls, the music appears
out of the air, with no audible attack, no clear beginning or end.
It is a sound like nothing else, and, as one listens, all the talk
of angelic voices almost makes sense.

Finkenbeiner seems to expend no effort in playing, but the ease
is illusory. A novice’s touch on the bowls produces only a rather
nasty squeak, with a faint after-ring, and Finkenbeiner says it
is unusual for a first attempt to yield even this unsatisfactory
result. It is an odd sensation as well, a sort of eerie tickling,
and it is easy to see how the rumor got started that the vibrations
could be dangerous.

Of course, odd vibrations can also be regarded as salutary. Two
centuries after Mesmer, Finkenbeiner says he finds that some of
his best customers come from the New Age healing community. In the
late 1980s, a mystical Lemurian entity named Gurudas, channeling
through two American writers, declared the harmonica "extremely
powerful to open the chakras" and recommended that players
use gem elixirs and flower essences attuned to each note. Soon Finkenbeiner
was flooded with letters from people seeking the "spiritual
and healing vibration" of pure quartz.

This aspect of his business has Finkenbeiner a bit puzzled, though
he is grateful for the custom and has even, at the prophet’s suggestion,
begun to make quartz flutes. He prefers to talk about the dozens
of musicians who play his instruments. Meyer is a close friend,
and he keeps in contact with a world of harmonica enthusiasts whose
smiling photos adorn his walls. His mail-order catalog includes
cassettes and CDs by players like Ken Piotrowski, a New Hampshire
pianist and historian of the instrument, and Dean Shostak, who performs
in period costume in the taverns of Colonial Williamsburg, in Virginia.

Dennis James, the most visible modern player, also began his career
with a Finkenbeiner harmonica, though he has since switched to a
custom instrument made by a German associate of Finkenbeiner’s,
Sascha Reckert. Reckert’s instrument has a richer, bassier sound
than Finkenbeiner’s, which is brighter and louder. James performs
regularly with classical ensembles in Europe and in the United States
but is best known to American audiences for his frequent appearances
with Linda Ronstadt.

The glass-music world is still quite small, but new players and
makers are appearing every day. Glass Music International, formed
in 1987, sends its newsletter to some 350 subscribers in 14 countries
and is organizing a convention to be held in Boston in April of
next year. The inventor’s gleam comes into Finkenbeiner’s eye as
he sketches pictures of seraphims, verillons, and other strange
new instruments that his fellow glass-instrument builders have been
toying with. (The seraphim is a set of pre-tuned glasses, the verillon
a set of tuned glass tubes.)

Finkenbeiner is obviously enthusiastic about these developments,
and the discussion of glass-working innovations reminds him of his
early years as an apprentice. "When you start learning how
to blow glass, everything twists," he says. "It looks
like a cauliflower or a coil or something, it gets paper thin, and
then it’s gone. So it takes, depending on the person, something
like five years to go through the brain, to put an input so that
you can coordinate those movements. It’s like playing a musical
instrument: You must practice, practice, practice, but then once
you have it, it’s fine."

His eyes get even brighter, and he heads back to the workroom.
Taking a piece of thin tube, he heats it on a burner and blows a
perfect bubble in the middle. A quick pull and twist makes an elegant,
narrow curve, then another breath produces a tiny bubble, which
he quickly pulls off-center. A final twist, and, with a beaming
smile, he hands the visitor a going-away present. It is a perfect
glass swan.

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Glass harmonica

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For the related instrument, see Glass harp .
Not to be confused with Jal tarang .

Spinning glass disks (bowls) on a common shaft are arranged with the lower notes (larger disks) to the left and higher notes (smaller disks) to the right.

The glass harmonica, also known as the glass armonica, glass harmonium, bowl organ, hydrocrystalophone, or simply the armonica or harmonica (derived from ἁρμονία, harmonia, the Greek word for harmony), [1] [2] is a type of musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction (instruments of this type are known as friction idiophones ).

Contents

  • 1 Names
  • 2 Forerunners
  • 3 Franklin’s harmonica
  • 4 Musical works
  • 5 Purported dangers
  • 6 Perception of the sound
  • 7 Modern revival
  • 8 Notable players
    • 8.1 Historical
    • 8.2 Contemporary
  • 9 Related instruments
  • 10 See also
  • 11 Notes
  • 12 References
  • 13 Further reading
  • 14 External links

Names[ edit ]

A glass harp , an ancestor of the glass armonica, being played in Rome . The rims of wine glasses filled with water are rubbed by the player’s fingers to create the notes.

The name “glass harmonica” (also “glass armonica”, “glassharmonica”; harmonica de verre, harmonica de Franklin, armonica de verre, or just harmonica in French; Glasharmonika in German; harmonica in Dutch) refers today to any instrument played by rubbing glass or crystal goblets or bowls. The alternate instrument consisting of a set of wine glasses (usually tuned with water) is generally known in English as “musical glasses” or the ” glass harp “.

When Benjamin Franklin invented his mechanical version of the instrument in 1761, he called it the armonica, based on the Italian word armonia, which means “harmony”. [3] [4]
The unrelated free-reed wind instrument aeolina, today called the ” harmonica “, was not invented until 1821, sixty years later.

The word “hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica” is also recorded, composed of Greek roots to mean something like “harmonica to produce music for the soul by fingers dipped in water” (hydro- for “water”, daktul- for “finger”, psych- for “soul”). [5] The Oxford Companion to Music mentions that this word is “the longest section of the Greek language ever attached to any musical instrument, for a reader of The Times wrote to that paper in 1932 to say that in his youth he heard a performance of the instrument where it was called a hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica.” [6] The Museum of Music in Paris displays a hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. [7]

Forerunners[ edit ]

Because its sounding portion is made of glass, the glass harmonica is a type of crystallophone . The phenomenon of rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a wine goblet to produce tones is documented back to Renaissance times; Galileo considered the phenomenon (in his Two New Sciences), as did Athanasius Kircher .

The Irish musician Richard Pockrich is typically credited as the first to play an instrument composed of glass vessels (glass harp) by rubbing his fingers around the rims. [8] Beginning in the 1740s, he performed in London on a set of upright goblets filled with varying amounts of water. His career was cut short by a fire in his room, which killed him and destroyed his apparatus.[ citation needed ]

Edward Delaval, a friend of Benjamin Franklin and a fellow of the Royal Society , extended the experiments of Pockrich, contriving a set of glasses better tuned and easier to play. [9] During the same decade, Christoph Willibald Gluck also attracted attention playing a similar instrument in England.

Franklin’s harmonica[ edit ]

A modern glass armonica built using Benjamin Franklin’s design

Benjamin Franklin invented a radically new arrangement of the glasses in 1761 after seeing water-filled wine glasses played by Edmund Delaval at Cambridge in England in May 1761. [10] Franklin worked with London glassblower Charles James to build one, and it had its world premiere in early 1762, played by Marianne Davies .

Writing to his friend Giambatista Beccaria in Turin, Italy, Franklin wrote from London in 1762 about his musical instrument:
“The advantages of this instrument are, that its tones are incomparably sweet beyond those of any other; that they may be swelled and softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressures of the finger, and continued to any length; and that the instrument, being well tuned, never again wants tuning. In honour of your musical language, I have borrowed from it the name of this instrument, calling it the Armonica.” [11]

In Franklin’s treadle-operated version, 37 bowls were mounted horizontally on an iron spindle. The whole spindle turned by means of a foot pedal. The sound was produced by touching the rims of the bowls with water-moistened fingers. Rims were painted different colors according to the pitch of the note: A (dark blue), B (purple), C (red), D (orange), E (yellow), F (green), G (blue), and accidentals were marked in white. [12] With the Franklin design, it is possible to play ten glasses simultaneously if desired, a technique that is very difficult if not impossible to execute using upright goblets. Franklin also advocated the use of a small amount of powdered chalk on the fingers, which under some acidic water conditions helped produce a clear tone.

Some attempted improvements on the armonica included adding keyboards, [13] placing pads between the bowls to reduce sympathetic vibrations ,[ citation needed ] and using violin bows . [13] Another supposed improvement claimed in ill-informed post-period observations of non-playing instruments was to have the glasses rotate into a trough of water. However, William Zeitler put this idea to the test by rotating an armonica cup into a basin of water; the water has the same effect as putting water in a wine glass – it changes the pitch. With several dozen glasses, each a different diameter and thus rotating with a different depth, the result would be musical cacophony. This modification also made it much harder to make the glass “speak”, and muffled the sound. [14]

In 1975, an original armonica was acquired by the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis and put on display, albeit without its original glass bowls (they were destroyed during shipment). [15] It was purchased through a musical instrument dealer in France, from the descendants of Mme. Brillon de Jouy, a neighbor of Benjamin Franklin’s from 1777 to 1785, when he lived in the Paris suburb of Passy . [15] Some 18th- and 19th-century specimens of the armonica have survived into the 21st century. Franz Mesmer also played the armonica and used it as an integral part of his Mesmerism .

An original Franklin armonica is in the archives at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia , having been donated in 1956 by Franklin’s descendants after “the children took great delight in breaking the bowls with spoons” during family gatherings. It is only placed on display for special occasions, such as Franklin’s birthday. The Franklin Institute is also the home of the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial . [16]

A website has attempted to catalog publicly known Franklin-era glass armonicas. [17] The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has an early 19th-century instrument on display, which is occasionally used for public performances and recordings. [18] [19]

Musical works[ edit ]

Part of the original manuscript score of “Aquarium” from The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns . The top staff was written for the (glass) “Harmonica”. About this sound Play  ( help · info )

The Fixed Stars, the Frontier to the Beyond
A piece played almost entirely on a glass harmonica.

Problems playing this file? See media help .

Composers including J. G. Naumann , Padre Martini , Johann Adolph Hasse , Baldassare Galuppi , and Niccolò Jommelli , [20] and more than 100 others composed works for the glass harmonica;[ citation needed ] some pieces survive in the repertoire through transcriptions for more conventional instruments. European monarchs indulged in playing it, and even Marie Antoinette took lessons as a child from Franz Anton Mesmer .[ citation needed ]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his 1791 K. 617 and K.356 (K.617a) for the glass harmonica. [20] Ludwig van Beethoven used the instrument in an 1814 melodrama Leonore Prohaska . [20] Gaetano Donizetti used the instrument in the accompaniment to Amelia’s aria “Par che mi dica ancora” in Il castello di Kenilworth , premiered in 1829. [21] He also originally specified the instrument in Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) as a haunting accompaniment to the heroine’s “mad scenes”, though before the premiere he was required by the producers to rewrite the part for two flutes. [22] Camille Saint-Saëns used this instrument in his 1886 The Carnival of the Animals (in movements 7 and 14). [23] Richard Strauss used the instrument in his 1917 Die Frau ohne Schatten . [20]

For a while the instrument was “extraordinarily popular,” its “‘ethereal” qualities characteristic, along with instruments such as the nail violin and Aeolian harp , of Empfindsamkeit , but “the instrument fell into oblivion,” around 1830. [20] Since the armonica’s performance revival during the 1980s, composers have again written for it (solo, chamber music, opera, electronic music, popular music) including Jan Erik Mikalsen , Regis Campo , Etienne Rolin, Philippe Sarde , Damon Albarn , Tom Waits , Michel Redolfi, Cyril Morin, Stefano Giannotti, Thomas Bloch , Jörg Widmann (Armonica 2006), [24] and Guillaume Connesson .

The music for the 1997 ballet Othello by American composer Elliot Goldenthal opens and closes with the glass harmonica. The ballet was performed at San Francisco Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, the Joffrey Ballet, and on tour in Europe including at the Opera Garnier with Dennis James performing with his historical replica instrument.

George Benjamin ‘s opera Written on Skin , which premiered at the 2012 Aix-en-Provence Festival, includes a prominent and elaborate part for the glass harmonica. [25]

Purported dangers[ edit ]

The instrument’s popularity did not last far beyond the 18th century. Some claim this was due to strange rumors that using the instrument caused both musicians and their listeners to go mad. It is a matter of conjecture how pervasive that belief was; all the commonly cited examples of this rumor seem to be German , if not confined to Vienna . One example of alleged effects from playing the glass harmonica was noted by a German musicologist Johann Friedrich Rochlitz in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung :

[The harmonica] excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood, that is an apt method for slow self-annihilation. …

  1. If you are suffering from any nervous disorder you should not play it.
  2. If you are not yet ill you should not play it excessively.
  3. If you are feeling melancholy you should not play it or else play uplifting pieces. [26]

Marianne Davies , who played flute and harpsichord – and was a young woman said to be related to Franklin – became proficient enough at playing the armonica to offer public performances. After touring for many years in duo performances with her celebrated vocalist sister, she was also said to have been afflicted with a melancholia attributed to the plaintive tones of the instrument. [9] Marianne Kirchgessner was an armonica player; she died at the age of 39 of pneumonia or an illness much like it. [27] However many others, including Franklin, lived long lives.

For a time the armonica achieved a genuine vogue, but like most fads, that for the armonica eventually passed. It has been claimed the sound-producing mechanism did not generate sufficient power to fill the large halls that were becoming home to modern stringed instruments, brass, woodwinds, and percussion. That the instrument was made with glass, and subject to easy breakage, perhaps did not help either. [9] By 1820, the armonica had mostly disappeared from frequent public performance, perhaps because musical fashions were changing.

A modern version of the “purported dangers” claims that players suffered lead poisoning because armonicas were made of lead glass . However, there is no known scientific basis for the theory that merely touching lead glass can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning was common in the 18th and early 19th centuries for both armonica players and non-players alike; doctors prescribed lead compounds for a long list of ailments, and lead or lead oxide was used as a food preservative and in cookware and eating utensils. Trace amounts of lead that armonica players in Franklin’s day received from their instruments would likely have been dwarfed by lead from other sources, such as the lead-content paint used to mark visual identification of the bowls to the players. [28]

Historical replicas by Eisch use so-called “White Crystal” developed in the 18th c. replacing the lead with a higher potash content; many modern newly invented devices, such as those made by Finkenbeiner, are made from so-called Quartz “pure silica glass” – a glass formulation developed in the early 20th c. for scientific purposes. [29]

Perception of the sound[ edit ]

The somewhat disorienting quality of the ethereal sound is due in part to the way that humans perceive and locate ranges of sounds. Above 4 kHz people primarily use the loudness of the sound to differentiate between left and right ears and thus triangulate , or locate the source. Below 1 kHz, they use the phase differences of sound waves arriving at their left and right ears to identify location. The predominant pitch of the armonica is in the range of 1–4 kHz, which coincides with the sound range where the brain is “not quite sure”, and thus listeners have difficulty locating it in space (where it comes from), and discerning the source of the sound (the materials and techniques used to produce it). [30]

Benjamin Franklin himself described the armonica’s tones as “incomparably sweet”. The full quotation, written in a letter to Giambattista Beccaria , an Italian priest and electrician, is: “The advantages of this instrument are that its tones are incomparably sweet beyond those of any other; that they may be swelled and softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressures of the finger, and continued to any length; and that the instrument, once well tuned, never again wants tuning.” [9]

A music critic for the Morning Chronicle, writing of a performance by Kirchgessner in 1794, said, “Her taste is chastened and the dulcet notes of the instrument would be delightful indeed, were they more powerful and articulate; but that we believe the most perfect execution cannot make them. In a smaller room and an audience less numerous, the effect must be enchanting. Though the accompaniments were kept very much under, they were still occasionally too loud.” [31]

Modern revival[ edit ]

Dennis James plays the armonica at the Poncan Theatre in Ponca City, Oklahoma, on April 2, 2011.

Music for glass harmonica was all-but-unknown from 1820 until the 1930s (although Gaetano Donizetti intended for the aria ” Il dolce suono ” from his 1835 opera Lucia di Lammermoor to be accompanied by a glass armonica, and Richard Strauss specified use of the instrument in his 1919 opera Die Frau ohne Schatten), when German virtuoso Bruno Hoffmann began revitalizing interest in his individual goblet instrument version that he named the glass harp for his stunning performances. Playing his “glass harp” (with Eisch manufactured custom designed glasses mounted in a case designed with underlying resonance chamber) he transcribed or rearranged much of the literature written for the mechanized instrument, and commissioned contemporary composers to write new pieces for his goblet version.

Franklin’s glass armonica design was reworked yet again without patent credit by master glassblower and musician, Gerhard B. Finkenbeiner (1930–1999) in 1984. After thirty years of experimentation, Finkenbeiner’s imitative prototype consisted of clear glasses and glasses later equipped with gold bands mimicking late 18th-century designs. The historical instruments with gold bands indicated the equivalent of the black keys on the piano, simplifying the multi-hued painted bowl rims with white accidentals as specified by Franklin. Finkenbeiner Inc., of Waltham , Massachusetts , continues to produce versions of these instruments commercially as of 2014 [update] , featuring glass elements made of scientific formulated fused-silica quartz . [32] [33] [34]

French instrument makers and artists Bernard and François Baschet invented a modern variation of the Chladni Euphone in 1952, the “crystal organ” or Cristal di Baschet , which consists of up to 52 chromatically tuned resonating metal rods that are set into motion by attached glass rods that are rubbed with wet fingers. The Cristal di Baschet differs mainly from the other glass instruments in that the identical length and thickness glass rods are set horizontally, and attach to the tuned metal stems that have added metal blocks for increasing resonance. The result is a fully acoustic instrument, and impressive amplification obtained using fiberglass or metal cones fixed on wood and by a tall cut-out multi-resonant metal part in the shape of a flame. Some thin added metallic wires resembling cat whiskers are placed under the instrument, supposedly to increase the sound power of high-pitched frequencies.

Dennis James recorded an album of all glass music, Cristal: Glass Music Through the Ages co-produced by Linda Ronstadt and Grammy Award-winning producer John Boylan . [35] James plays the glass harmonica, the Cristal di Baschet, and the Seraphim on the CD in original historical compositions and new arrangements for glass by Mozart , Scarlatti , Schnaubelt, and Fauré [35] and collaborates on the recording with the Emerson String Quartet , operatic soprano Ruth Ann Swenson , and Ronstadt. [35] James played glass instruments on Marco Beltrami’s film scores for The Minus Man (1999) and The Faculty (1998). [36] “I first became aware of glass instruments at about the age of 6 while visiting the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia . I can still recall being mesmerized by the appearance of the original Benjamin Franklin armonica then on display in its own showcase in the entry rotunda of the city’s famed science museum.” [36] James Horner used a glass harmonica and pan flute for Spock’s theme in the 1982 film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . [37]

Notable players[ edit ]

Historical[ edit ]

  • Marie Antoinette
  • Marianne Davies
  • Benjamin Franklin (United States)
  • Franz Mesmer
  • Marianne Kirchgessner
  • Mrs. Philip Thicknesse (born Anne Ford ), 1775, United Kingdom)

Contemporary[ edit ]

  • Thomas Bloch (France)
  • Cecilia Brauer (United States) [38]
  • Bill Hayes (New York City) Broadway Musician and Percussionist, Barbra Streisand Orchestra 1994, 2006, 2007 [39]
  • Martin Hilmer [40] [41] (Germany)
  • Bruno Hoffmann (Germany)
  • Dennis James (United States)
  • Friedrich Heinrich Kern (United States/Germany) [42]
  • Alasdair Malloy (United Kingdom) [43]
  • David Mauldin (United States) [44]
  • Gloria Parker (United States) glass harp
  • Gerald Schönfeldinger (Austria) [45]
  • Dean Shostak (United States) [46]
  • Ed Stander (United States) [47]
  • William Zeitler (United States)

Related instruments[ edit ]

An armonica

Another instrument that is also played with wet fingers is the hydraulophone .[ citation needed ] The hydraulophone sounds similar to a glass armonica but has a darker, heavier sound, that extends down into the subsonic range. The technique for playing the hydraulophone is similar to that used for playing the armonica.

See also[ edit ]

  • Cristal baschet
  • Glass diatonic harmonica , a diatonic harmonica constructed from glass
  • Hydraulophone
  • Sensitive style
  • Singing bowl
  • Verrophone
  • Waterphone

Notes[ edit ]

  1. ^ Harper, Douglas. “harmonica” . Online Etymology Dictionary .

    Harper, Douglas. “harmonic” . Online Etymology Dictionary .

  2. ^ ἁρμονία . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project .
  3. ^ Sibyl Marcuse, “Armonica”, Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary, corrected edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, inc., 1975).
  4. ^ Franklin, Benjamin (Jul 13, 1762), How Franklin Invented the Armonica and How to Build One , retrieved Nov 5, 2015Letter written by Franklin in 1762
  5. ^ Ian Crofton (2006) “Brewer’s Cabinet of Curiosities,” ISBN   0-304-36801-6
  6. ^ As quoted from the 1970 edition of the Companion by a Glasssharmonica.com webpage Archived 2008-01-19 at the Wayback Machine .
  7. ^ “Museums celebrate spring” (in French)
  8. ^ Bloch, Thomas (2009-01-30). “GFI Scientific glass blowing products and services: THE GLASSHARMONICA” . Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  9. ^ a b c d Brands, H. W. (2000) “The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin” First Anchor Books Edition, March 2002 ISBN   0-385-49540-4
  10. ^ “Downloadable Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Adam Hart Davis on the Angelic Organ of Evil” . Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  11. ^ “Benjamin Franklin and his Glass Armonica” . www.americanmusicpreservation.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  12. ^ The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume III: London, 1757–1775 – Faults in Songs Archived 2008-12-06 at the Wayback Machine .
  13. ^ a b Zeitler, William (2009). “E. Power Biggs Attempts a Keyboard Armonica” . glassarmonica.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05.
  14. ^ Zeitler, William (2009). “Water Trough” . glassarmonica.com. Retrieved 2016-06-05. (Includes a video demonstration.)
  15. ^ a b The Bakken. “Glass Armonica” . Archived from the original on April 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-22.
  16. ^ “The Franklin Institute – Exhibit – Franklin… He’s Electric” . fi.edu. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  17. ^ Zeitler, William. “Census” . The Glass Armonica. William Zeitler. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  18. ^ “Musical glasses (armonica)” . Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  19. ^ Goyette, Rich. “Historic Glass Armonica – MFA collection” . RichGoyette.com. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  20. ^ a b c d e Apel, Willi (1969). “Glass harmonica”, Harvard Dictionary of Music , p.347. Harvard. ISBN   9780674375017 .
  21. ^ Charles Osborne (1 April 1994). The bel canto operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini . Amadeus Press. ISBN   978-0-931340-71-0 .
  22. ^ Tommasini, Anthony (October 5, 2007). “Resonance Is a Glass Act for a Heroine on the Edge” . The New York Times.
  23. ^ The Carnival of the Animals : Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)
  24. ^ ” Zehetmair/ BBC Philharmonic/ Storgårds review – through a glass, darkly “, TheGuardian.com. Accessed: February 05 2017.
  25. ^ George Benjamin, Written on Skin, Full Score, Faber Music, 2013.
  26. ^ Cope, Kevin L. (30 September 2004). 1650–1850: ideas, aesthetics, and inquiries in the early modern era . AMS Press. p. 149. ISBN   978-0-404-64410-9 . Retrieved 5 April 2011.
  27. ^ Bossler, Heinrich (1809-05-10). Marianne Kirchgessner obituary. Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, 10 May 1809. Obituary written by Marianne Kirchgessner’s manager Heinrich Bossler.
  28. ^ See Finger, Stanley (2006); Doctor Franklin’s Medicine; U of Pennsylvania Press; Philadelphia; ISBN   0-8122-3913-X . Chapter 11, “The Perils of Lead” (p. 181–198) discusses the pervasiveness of lead poisoning in Franklin’s day and Franklin’s own leadership in combating it.
  29. ^ “GFI Scientific glass blowing products and services” . www.finkenbeiner.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  30. ^ “BBC – (none) – Music Feature – Angelic Organ of Evil” . www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  31. ^ ” Concerti and Chamber Music Sleeve Notes “, DavidWatkins.info. Accessed: February 04 2017.
  32. ^ Rothstein, Edward (January 15, 1984). “Playing on Glass” . New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  33. ^ “Glass Harmonicas” . G. Finkenbeiner Inc. G. Finkenbeiner Inc. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  34. ^ Wald, Elijah. “Music of the Spheres: The Glass Harmonica” . Elijah Wald – Writer, Musician. Retrieved 2014-07-03.
  35. ^ a b c Sony Classical Music. “Cristal – Glass Music Through the Ages” Archived November 24, 2006, at the Wayback Machine .
  36. ^ a b “Dennis James interview- glass armonica project / by Rich Bailey” . www.ronstadt-linda.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  37. ^ “Monsters from the Id – “The Kobayashi Maru has set sail for the promised land.. Retrieved April 18, 2012.
  38. ^ “History of the Armonica, Ben Franklin and Glass Armonica” . Gigmasters.com. Retrieved 2013-02-21.
  39. ^ “Bill Hayes (2) Discography at Discogs” . Discogs.com. Retrieved 2014-02-12.
  40. ^ “Martin Hilmer – Live-Musik auf seltenen Instrumenten” . www.glasmusik.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  41. ^ The Glassharmonica made by Sascha Reckert. Retrieved from http://www.glasharmonika.com/harmon.htm . (in German)
  42. ^ “Three Musical Triumphs at the Santa Fe Opera” . 2017-08-06. Retrieved 2018-03-02.
  43. ^ “glass harmonica” . Alasdair Malloy. 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
  44. ^ Sr, GAD Web Designs Paul John Sharaba. “History-alive.com” . www.history-alive.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  45. ^ [1] [ dead link ]
  46. ^ “Website for Dean Shostak’s Crystal Concert, regular performances take place at Colonial Williamsburg, VA USA” . Crystalconcert.com. 2018-11-12. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  47. ^ “It’s glassware! It’s an instrument! It’s both!” . alloveralbany.com. Retrieved 6 April 2018.

References[ edit ]

  • “An Extensive Bibliography” . of resources about the armonica. Retrieved January 16, 2007.
  • “Franklin, Benjamin” . Franklin correspondence regarding the armonica. Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2007.
  • “Galileo, Galilei” . Passage from ‘Two New Sciences’ by Galileo about the ‘wet finger around the wine glass’ phenomenon (1638). Archived from the original on February 10, 2007. Retrieved January 16, 2007.
  • King, A.H., “The Musical Glasses and Glass Harmonica,” Royal Musical Association, Proceedings, Vol.72, (1945/1946), pp. 97–122.
  • Sterki, Peter. Klingende Gläser. Bern. NY 2000. ISBN   3-906764-60-5 br.
  • History of the Glass Harmonica

Further reading[ edit ]

History
  • Zeitler, W. The Glass Armonica—the Music and the Madness (2013) A history of glass music from the Kama Sutra to modern times, including the glass harmonica (also known as the glass harmonica), the musical glasses and the glass harp. 342 pages, 45 illustrations, 27 page bibliography. ISBN   978-1-940630-00-7
Instruction books
  • Bartl. About the Keyed Armonica.
  • Ford, Anne (1761). Instructions for playing on the music glasses (Method). London. “A pdf copy” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 26, 2007. Retrieved January 20, 2007.
  • Franklin, J. E. Introduction to the Knowledge of the Seraphim or Musical Glasses.
  • Hopkinson-Smith, Francis (1825). Tutor for the Grand Harmonicon. Baltimore, Maryland.
  • Ironmonger, David. Instructions for the Double and Single Harmonicon Glasses.
  • Muller, Johann Christian (a.k.a. John Christopher Moller). Anleitung zum Selbstunterricht auf der Harmonika.
  • Roellig, Leopold. Uber die Harmonika / Uber die Orphika.
  • Smith, James. Tutor for the Musical Glasses.
  • Wunsch, J. D. Practische – Schule fur die lange Harmonika.

External links[ edit ]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Glass harmonicas .
  • G. Finkenbeiner Inc. site, manufacturer of glass harmonicas
  • Display of glass armonica at The Bakken Library and Museum
  • Articles (with citations) about the armonica by William Zeitler
  • Dennis James interview
  • Historic 18th-century Glass Harmonica at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • ‘Cecilia Brauer’s website, Performances by living Armonica player, history of the instrument’
  • Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). ” Harmonica “. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Videos
  • A collection of Thomas Bloch glass harmonica videos
  • Robert Tiso demonstrating how to set up and tune a glass harp on YouTube
  • J.S. Bach: Toccata D minor played by Glass Duo on YouTube
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