Glass harmonica: instrument description, composition, history, use

Glass harmonica: instrument description, composition, history, use

A rare instrument with an unusual sound belongs to the class of idiophones, in which the sound is extracted from the body or a separate part of the instrument without its preliminary deformation (compression or tension of the membrane or string). The glass harmonica uses the ability of the moistened edge of a glass vessel to produce a musical tone when rubbed.

What is a glass harmonica

The main part of its device is a set of hemispheres (cups) of different sizes made of glass. The parts are mounted on a strong metal rod, the ends of which are attached to the walls of a wooden resonator box with a hinged lid.

Glass harmonica: instrument description, composition, history, use

Vinegar diluted with water is poured into the tank, constantly moistening the edges of the cups. The shaft with glass elements rotates thanks to the transmission mechanism. The musician touches the cups with his fingers and at the same time sets the shaft in motion by pressing the pedal with his foot.


The original version of the musical instrument appeared in the middle of the 30th century and was a set of 40-XNUMX glasses filled with water in different ways. This version was called “music cups”. In the middle of the XNUMXth century, Benjamin Franklin improved it by developing a structure of hemispheres on an axis, driven by a foot drive. The new version was called the glass harmonica.

The reinvented instrument quickly gained popularity among performers and composers. The parts for him were written by Hasse, Mozart, Strauss, Beethoven, Gaetano Donizetti, Karl Bach (son of the great composer), Mikhail Glinka, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Anton Rubinstein.

Glass harmonica: instrument description, composition, history, use

By the beginning of the 1970th century, the mastery of playing the harmonica was lost, it became a museum exhibit. Composers Philippe Sard and George Crum drew attention to the instrument in the XNUMXs. Subsequently, the music of the glass hemispheres sounded in the works of modern classicists and rock musicians, for example, Tom Waits and Pink Floyd.

Using the tool

Its unusual, unearthly sound seems sublime, magical, mysterious. Glass harmonica was used to create an atmosphere of mystery, for example, in the parts of fairy-tale creatures. Franz Mesmer, the physician who discovered hypnosis, used such music to relax patients before examinations. In some German cities, the glass harmonica has been banned because of the supposedly negative effect on people and animals.

"Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the Glass Armonica

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