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

GLASS HARMONICA played by VERA MEYER

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Great collection...

MrGS said...

Those are some wild musical instruments! They should be brought back and have bands centered around them.

David Miller said...

I absolutely love this unique instrument and I can't say enough about it. Please, please, please write more about it. I don't think many people in the general public (or even musicians for that matter) know about it. It has an "other-worldly" tone that I love. Thanks for this important article.

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Anonymous said...

This is such a cool site!

Can I make a request for a post?

It's called "Dance Chimes" by Alfons Van Leggelo. Watch this and be inspired!

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Learn and Master Guitar said...

This is one of a kind instrument.It's really amazing.

taw99 said...

I love the semi-erie sounds this glass amonica makes. I would ove to have a cheap children's toy version of it.

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Songplacements said...

Very cool and informative. Great videos as well.

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thelmadebock said...

the videos have very cool instrument which i liked the most. 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.
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claus12 said...

so nice post is posted i wonder about that Franklin design it is possible to play ten glasses simultaneously if desired its quiet interesting

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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.

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Kimberly said...

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toddbeld said...

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.
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sohail484888 said...

Musical instruments are mainly categorized by the way they generate sound. All musical instruments fall under one of the following - string, wind, percussion and keyboard, although it may have more divisions and subdivisions.stagedive

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socha said...
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Paulie said...

Wow, I can't believe how awesome the glass harmonica sounds. Looks difficult to play though.

My friend, Cate Von Smith-Bauder is a real musical instrument nut, and she'd love to play around with one of these.

Very awesome article, thanks for the good read.

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Craig said...

Some of the people who performed regularly on the armonica complained that the instrument was upsetting them emotionally. They said that the vibrations were entering their fingertips and causing mental anguish. There has been some conjecture that these conditions were caused by lead poisoning that the performers acquired from lead in the glass hemispheres of the instrument. Lead was a commonly used metal in the eighteenth century, so it is difficult to determine if these players' maladies came from the lead in the armonica or from other sources.
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johnweiland said...

Hi
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


Jeffreyson
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johnweiland said...

Hi
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


Jeffreyson
Mbox 3 Review

johnweiland said...

HI
The glass harmonica, also known as the glass armonica, bowl organ, hydrocrystalophone, or simply the armonica (derived from "harmonia," the Greek 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 (instruments of this type are known as friction idiophones).Thanks for sharing the stuff.


Jeffreyson
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Brandon Zehr said...

This is such a unique harmonica! I would love to try and play one of these. Thanks for sharing this great information about a very cool instrument!

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