Friday, February 09, 2007

musical minimalist...


inspired by a mid 1700's performance of music made by rubbing wet fingers on a set of wine glasses, benjamin franklin invented the glass armonica. getting tones from a wine glass with a wet finger was first mentioned in the experiments of galileo. athanasius kircher, and francis bacon in the 1600's. at the time a single glass was so expensive, all experiments were done with only one. by the mid 1700's an irish musician, richard puckridge, took a set of glasses into the world of performance and the glasses went from science to music.

when franklin saw a similar performance by william deleval, he began designs on the glass armonica (a crystal structure, not unlike a brancusi sculpture laying on its side, where the cup forms rotate with a foot pedal). franklin's armonica allowed the possibility of rubbing ten tones out of the glasses at once... simply hold each of your fingers along an edge of the spinning instrument.

of course these spectral sounds resonated beyond mere entertainment. mesmer used them as a major part of his mesmerism theories about magnetic fluid; and just the fact that kircher mentions glass music means it had some connection to alchemy. in the late 18th century there were all kinds of rumors that the music that came from wine glasses was dangerous.

supposedly these lilting sounds could shatter one's nerves and send them into deep melancholic depression - a fact that is slightly ironic in terms of much recent armonica recordings are related to new age healing (if you want to hear a great example of the instrument in an experimental context you should check out christina kubisch's armonica cd).

here we have a nice RPPC of a man playing wine glasses circa 1900. unfortunately no info on who the brave performer might be, but he must've been a pro, as his glasses seem rigged with some kind of amplification. i'm sure the music was incredibly wonderful...

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can read extensively about the glass armonica at:

8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some folks prefer to call it the 'glass Harmonica', in which case check out

8:35 AM  
Blogger sroden said...

yes, both of these take you to the same site, there is some incredibly well researched history there. thanks for visiting.

2:54 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home