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Molly Cule
293371.  Mon Mar 10, 2008 1:22 pm Reply with quote


"Of all my inventions, the glass armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction." - Ben Franklin

In the mid-1700’s musicians used to give concerts wine glass bowls filled with water – they wet their fingers and rubbed them around the rim of the glass, just like you can do with wine glasses. Franklin heard one of these concerts, loved it and designed his own instrument based on the bowls which was more practical (course he did). He made a glass armonica, a pedal rotated the glasses and the bowls were pre-tuned to specific tones. It had 48 notes, and four octaves. All you had to do to play it was lick your finger, press the pedal to turn the spindle and put your finger on a spinning glass.

The glass armonica was one of the most celebrated instruments of the 18th century. Franklin began to take his beloved armonica with him when he traveled and played popular Scottish tunes or original compositions for his audiences. At least 300 pieces were written for the armonica by composers such as Beethoven, Mozart, and Donizetti would write music for the armonica. It was produced in factories around Europe. Because of its almost immediate popularity, the glass armonica seemed destined for permanence. But by the 1820s, it was nearly a forgotten instrument.

It lasted only 40 years because it became associated with the supernatural thanks to its haunting sound. Some armonica players became ill and had to stop playing the instrument. They complained of muscle spasms, nervousness, cramps, and dizziness. A few listeners were also subject to ill effects; after an incident in Germany where a child died during a performance, the armonica was actually banned in a few towns. Some people thought that the high-pitched, ethereal tones invoked the spirits of the dead, had magical powers, caused convulsions in cats and dogs, woke the dead and/or drove listeners mad.

Others thought that lead from the crystal bowls or paint was absorbed into the musicians' fingers when they touched the glass, causing sickness. No explanation or proof was ever really given to any of these claims. Franklin himself ignored all of the controversy and continued to play the instrument until the end of his life with none of the symptoms mentioned. But the armonica's popularity never really returned to what it had been when it was first introduced.

Mozarts adagio for glass armonica….

336905.  Thu May 15, 2008 7:05 am Reply with quote

According to wiki, Franklin is the most common place name in the US with 37: second is Salem with 36.

Link to the question about "first street" and "second street"



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