Friday, May 18, 2007

Benjamin Franklin and the glass armonica

My younger brother got married almost ten years ago. At the wedding reception one of the wedding couple’s friends collected eight glasses. She filled them with water to different levels. Then with a spoon she played Jingle Bells. It was quite amazing.

Evidently Benjamin Franklin had a similar experience about 350 years ago. While in Europe he listened so someone use glass to make music. Benjamin Franklin came back to the colonies and created another invention, the glass armonica. The musical instrument is fairly simple. A set of bowls are created with holes down the middle. Each bowl is slightly different size. They are stacked on a pole, separated. The pole is placed horizontal and rotated. The musician wets his fingers and touches the bowls slightly. Each bowl gives off a different note. Wikipedia has a nice picture of one.

At Colonial Williamsburg we went to a concert of this glass armonica. It was amazing. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the music. Dean Shostak played several pieces, they were ethereal. He also played glass bells, a glass violin, and a couple other instruments. We bought four CDs.

If you get a chance to visit Colonial Williamsburg, check out the glass armonica concert.

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