The Glass Harmoinca

Remember I told you, dear reads, in the last post, that I'd talk about the Glass Harmonica? Well here I am!

In 1772, Metastase describes the instrument in one of his letters. He said that curious instrument was made of cristal or glass cilinders or rings, that are put together in order of size (from the biggest to the smallest) and are put in a sort of support that spins fast. The player of the instrument touched the cilinders with bare hands, as if it was the keyboard of an organ or harpsichord, and produced an extremely suave sound...

Gluck himself played this instrument, accompanied with an orquestra, and Mozart even composed for it. But wait, the surprises are not over! Benjamin Franklin invented one glass harmonica himself!

"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 moistened fingers. Rims were painted different colors according to the pitch of the note. A's were dark blue, B's purple, C's red, D's orange, E's yellow, F's green, G's 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."

What would you say of that?

There are several different names given tot he glass harmonica according to the language, such as glassharmonica, glass armonica, Armonica de verre in French, Glasharmonika in German, and then a name that I defy you to pronounce: hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. Isn't that one creepy? It's composed of Greek words and basically means: "harmonica to produce music for the soul by fingers dipped in water". Music for the soul... wonderful!

However, the glass harmonica stated to lose its popularity. Rumors (a tipical 18th century thing!) said that players would go mad, and also the animals in the house of the player. The instrument would make people go into a deep transe and depression, and even shorten their lives! It was forbidden in the 19th century. People also feared that the players suffered from lead poisoning, since it was made with lead glass. However, this was never proven, and in those times, not only harmonica players suffered from lead poisoning - many people did!

Before you leave, take this link with you:


The music is by Mozart. Isn't that sound from the other world?

I hope you enjoyed this short introduction of the glass harmonica!

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