THE GLASS HARMONICA

Having performed in the first and second International Glass Music Festivals the members of the Glass Orchestra came to meet Gerhard Finkenbeiner who was building modern versions of Benjamin Franklin's Armonica. Gerhard calls his instruments Glass Harmonicas and he builds his glass cups out of quartz crystal. The sound of quartz crystal is quite remarkable - it has a beautiful tone and a long sustain indicative of the purity of quartz crystal.

There are a number of falsehoods circulating about the glass harmonica. Some encyclopedia's state that the bowls of the glass harmonica turn in a trough of water. This is not true because immersing the bowls in water would change their pitch. Some books state that playing the glass harmonica and tuned wine-glasses results in "severe nervous disorders". Some people believe that these disorders were caused by the lead paint that marked off the sharp and flat notes being absorbed into the skin. A german glass harmonica instruction manual from the 1700's categorically states that the sound of these instruments will not bring the dead back to life.

The Glass Orchestra currently has two of Gerhard Finkenbeiners Glass Harmonicas and has been integrating them into their most recent performances. A curious note - it has proved to be quite a challenge to use the glass harmonicas in a regular Glass Orchestra performance because the bulk of the ensembles instruments are not tuned to western scales while the glass harmonicas are.

 

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