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The Central Coast Philharmonia

Glass Armonica
("Glass Harmony")



This very beautiful seemingly new-age instrument is actually an old-age instrument with a classical founding. It was invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin and saw some some prestige in Europe while music as a profession was despised in the Untied States. Mozart wrote two pieces we know of for the instrument, a solo adagio and a quintet. Beethoven also wrote at least one piece for it, a melodrama accompaniment. Unfortunately, after its use (or misuse rather) by one who was held by many to be a fraudulent psychologist, the instrument was inaccurately associated with bad health and declining morality. Several medical journals of the 19th century discuss the alleged corrosive effects of the glass armonica and the Catholic church added to this by declaring it to evoke evil spirits or demons and cause moral suffering. As a result of this unfortunate onslaught of slander, the instrument fell out of favour. However, in the 20th century, the Scientific glassblowing company G. Finkenbeiner (www.finkenbeiner.com) decided to reproduce the instrument and now sells them online where they can be purchased and a few performers have risen out of the ash and soot to restore the reputation of this ethereal and sadly neglected instrument. Several compositions in the Genesis concert feature the glass armonica and its capabilities, and it will be performed by master armonicist William Wilde Zeitler. For more information about Mr. Zeitler and the history of the instrument, visit his web site www.glassarmonica.com.

Some technical info:
The instrument consists of graduated crystal bowls (or cups rather) which are suspended in a graduated horizontal cylinder. The cylinder rotates and the performer plays by touching with wet fingers. This is very difficult to do and takes considerable practice; the perfect touch is required to produce every note. The armonica is written on a grand staff of two treble clefs and is fully capable of arpeggios, chords, trills and tremolo figures. Cups with gold rims represent the black notes on a piano, and it is interesting to note that unlike a keyboardist, a glass armonica performer can only stretch a sixth in one hand. Range differs from instrument to instrument, but generally speaking, middle C up to the 4-ledger-line G is safe. Extreme low can be thin and recorder-like with a certain amount of squeak in the attack, the upper range is more smooth and ethereal, and rather bright, but with a unique tint of darkness. It is a very quiet instrument that benefits from a quiet ensemble or from amplification.


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