November 30th, -0001
We’ve been aware of the ‘wet-finger-around-the-wine-glass’ idea since Renaissance times—one from the first individuals to write
about this phenomenon was Galileo. Teams of water-updated glasses on which you’ll play tunes were made popular in England
by Pockridge and Gluck in early 1700′s.
In 1761 Benjamin Franklin was at London representing the Pennsylvania Legislature to Parliament. Franklin was very
thinking about music: he would be a capable amateur music performer, attended concerts regularly, as well as authored a string quartet!
Among the concerts Franklin attended was by Deleval, a friend of his within the Royal Academy, who carried out on some
water updated wineglasses patterned after Pockridge’s instrument. Franklin was enchanted, and going to invent and
build ‘a more convenient’ arrangement.
Franklin’s new invention opened at the begining of 1762, performed by Marianne Davies—a well-known music performer working in london who learned
to experience Franklin’s new invention. Initially Franklin referred to it as the ‘glassychord’, but soon chosen ‘armonica’ because the
reputation for his new invention—after an italian man , word for harmony “armonia”. Apparently Franklin built another instrument
for Ms. Davies, as she together with Europe with hers, while Franklin came back to Philadelphia together with his own.
The armonica made a significant hit, specifically in Germany. Mozart was brought to it by Franz Mesmer, who used his to
‘mesmerize’ his patients, and then Mozart authored two works for this (a solo armonica piece, along with a bigger quintet for
armonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello). Mozart also authored just a little piece for amonica and narrator (!), and lots of of
their co-workers during the day composed for this as well—some 200 pieces for armonica (solo, or along with other instruments)
survive from those years.
But musical styles transformed. Music was leaving the relatively small aristocratic halls of Mozart’s day in to the
large public concert halls from the 1800s, and without amplification it really couldn’t be heard. Throughout this
period, instruments generally were considerably remodeled to ensure they are even louder to become heard within the bigger
public concert halls—the piano experienced a significant transformation from the “quiet little harpsichord with hammers” of
Mozart’s day towards the massive instrument we all know today, and instruments from the orchestra—strings, winds, brass—were all
modified to improve their volume. But there really had not been way to help make the armonica even louder. Concert reviews in the
period bemoan the truth that the armonica seemed wonderful—when it may be heard. So, alas, Franklin’s wonderful
invention was ultimately abandoned.
Amplification is obviously no more an issue, but to this day you will find merely a dozen approximately glass armonica entertainers
Originally posted 2013-04-04 07:20:05.