Sunday, October 7, 2007

Glass Armonica

The glass harmonica, also known as glass armonica, '"hydrocrystalophone" or simply armonica (derived from "armonia", the Italian word for harmony) 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, making it both a crystallophone and a friction idiophone). Despite being played with wet fingers, the sound is produced by vibration of the solid glass, so that the glass harmonica is not a hydraulophone even if played completely submerged in water.

Benjamin Franklin invented a radically new arrangement of the glasses in 1761 after seeing water-filled wine glasses played by William Deleval. Franklin, who called his invention the "armonica" after the Italian word for harmony, worked with London glassblower Charles James to build one, and it had its world premiere in early 1762, played by Marianne Davies.

In Franklin's version, 37 bowls were mounted horizontally nested on an iron spindle. The whole spindle turned by means of a foot-operated treadle. The sound was produced by touching the rims of the bowls with moistened fingers. Rims were painted different colors according to the pitch of the note. As were dark blue, Bs purple, Cs red, Ds orange, Es yellow, Fs green, Gs blue, and accidentals white. 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 helped produce a clear tone in the same way rosin is applied to the bows of string instruments.

Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, Richard Strauss, and Camille Saint-Saëns all composed works for the glass harmonica. European monarchs indulged in it, and even Marie Antoinette had taken lessons on it as a child from Marianne Davies. One of the best known pieces is the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the ballet The Nutcracker; Tchaikovsky's first draft called for glass harmonica, but he changed it to the newly-invented celesta before the work's premiere performance in 1892.

Here is a documentary about Glass Armonica

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the Glass Armonica


Monday, October 1, 2007


The Dubreq Stylophone is a miniature electronic musical instrument invented in 1967 by Brian Jarvis. It consists of a metal keyboard played by touching it with a stylus - each note being connected to a cheap voltage-controlled oscillator via a different-value resistor - thus closing a circuit. Some three million Stylophones were sold, mostly as children's toys. Rolf Harris appeared for several years as the Stylophone's advertising spokesman in the United Kingdom.

Here is how it works and sounds:

Hexstatic - Stylophone