Thursday, January 28, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and the Armonica: No, It's Not a Rock Group

"Images from the Cutler Gallery | Glass Armonica, France, ca. 1785"
National Music Museum

"As the popularity of playing musical glasses increased during the mid-18th century, Benjamin Franklin, American statesman and inventor, designed a more utilitarian version of the fashionable instrument--the armonica. He had a glassblower make him a set of 36 hemispherical bowls, graduated...."

And no, "armonica" is not the same as a Cockney 'armonica.

How does an armonica work? Back to the article:

"...The player touches the glass rims with moistened fingers to create the instrument's distinctively ethereal, ringing sound...."

There's not much text on the page: but it's got a favorable fluff/content ratio. And, there are three more photos, besides the one I linked to in this post.

The glass armonica's "ethereal, ringing sound" wouldn't be a common part of western music until over two centuries later, when digital/electronic music developed from a sort of novelty act to a serious art form.

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