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Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica

Lizzie Cornish 1 16 Dec 08 - 10:27 AM
Lizzie Cornish 1 16 Dec 08 - 10:33 AM
Paul Burke 16 Dec 08 - 11:06 AM
Jack Campin 16 Dec 08 - 03:35 PM
Nerd 16 Dec 08 - 03:46 PM
Mark Ross 16 Dec 08 - 03:50 PM
GUEST,Meadowlmuskrat 16 Dec 08 - 04:30 PM
Lizzie Cornish 1 16 Dec 08 - 05:15 PM
Joe_F 16 Dec 08 - 08:50 PM
GUEST,RWM 16 Dec 08 - 11:06 PM
GUEST,Meadowmuskrat 17 Dec 08 - 12:26 PM
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Subject: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 10:27 AM

We went to his house on Sunday, the one where he lodged in London for 16 years, whilst over here. If anyone's not been, it's well worth a visit. The house has been restored now, but has no furniture at all in there. They manage to make it interesting though, by first showing you a short video about Benjamin, and the House..down in the room where they discovered all the bones in the basement, left over from the anatomy classes which were held there.

When that's finished, Polly Hewson, who was the daughter of his landlady, comes to show you round the house. She doesn't look at you, but you follow her from room to room, watching, as she talks with 'guests' who've come to stay. They are talking to Benjamin himself, as does Polly from time to time. They run a video on the walls or fireplaces of the rooms too, which tallies with the story being told at the time. It's surreal, but excellently done, and Polly is a fantastic actress...Or is she a ghost?   :0)

Benjamin Franklin's London Home

We also got to play the full size replica of Ben's Armonica...which made a sound that was fairly ear-shattering. Very interesting to have a go on. They play it with Baby Wipes.. :0) First, you soak the glass jars themselves, then you soak the wipe, wrap it round your fingers and press very hard on the rim of each glass jar, to produce the sound. The jars are constantly spinning, by the way. It follows on from Ben watching some Irishmen playing their wine glasses, and he loved the sound they produced so much that he went home and invented his Armonica.

You can hear a pretty good likeness of the sound here:

Play the Glass Armonica

Well worth a visit, if ever you're near Trafalgar Square. Stand with your back to The Charing Cross Hotel, and turn left, then it's the first left-hand turning, Craven St.


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 10:33 AM

Sorry, could this be moved to the BS section, please. Thank you.

I agree with Paul Burke in the next post. This is a general music thread.

Muderator.


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Paul Burke
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 11:06 AM

What's BS about a musical instrument? There's a wonderful book that the Boy gave me last Christmas, Harmonious Triads by Prof. Myles Jackson, that explores the late 18th Century popularity of these instruments (among very much more excellent stuff). I've heard them on the radio, and even seen one in a glass case in a museum, but never heard one played live. It's not something you could really take to a session.

The ethereal sound was supposed to arouse profound passions, particularly in women, and the instrument became associated with experiments in electricity, hypnotism, breathing of gases and suchlike radical experiments, and fell out of popularity as the Enlightenment gave way to the Reaction.


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Jack Campin
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 03:35 PM

It is said of the Ottoman classical musician Tanburi Cemil Bey (1874-1916) that "when he was only ten years old he exhibited an extraordinary talent for music. He used to do music with glasses that were filled with water to varying degrees, play with the rubber boots of visitors for the same purpose". (from the notes to the Isbank-sponsored 3-CD anthology of mostly-78 recordings, "From Past to Present Turkish Music")

I'd guess that the glasses were struck like a glockenspiel, rather than played like Franklin's gizmo; I've seen a busker in Budapest doing that. But, musical wellies???


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Nerd
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 03:46 PM

The Library of Congress has an extremely rare imprint of "L'Armonica: Lettera di Beniamino Franklin al padre Giambatista Beccaria…" (Turin: Stamperia Reale, 1769). It's one of only four copies known to exist. The pamphlet transcribes Franklin's letters to Father Beccaria, Italian philosopher and scientist, in which he describes the armonica in detail.

It's also illustrated with a diagram of the armonica, which you can see
here; scroll to the bottom and click on the image for a larger view.


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Mark Ross
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 03:50 PM

I got to play with a glass armonica musician a couple of years ago at the Oregon Country Fair, forgot his name, and he was a treat to listen to. For his solo bit he would play a Beethoven piece specifically written for that instrument and then he would finish with what he claimed was the original version of STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN.
It was a hoot. For the finale while the Most Left Reverend Chumleigh passed the hat thru the crowd, we would play Beethoven's ODE TO JOY, the chorale movement from his Ninth Symphony, on glass armonica, 5 string banjo and mouth harp. He had to be real careful he told me to check his lead levels every so often because the instrument uses leaded glass. Oh, and he an electric motor turning the spindle instead of Franklin's foot treadle.

Mark Ross


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: GUEST,Meadowlmuskrat
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 04:30 PM

I've seen a person whose name I can't recall perform on the instrument a couple of times at the Chestertown MD. Tea festival, which is every Memorial day weekend in the eastern shore town. It commmorates the town tossing tea into the Chesapeake in sympathy with the action in Boston harbor. he did traditional colonial tunes and also talked about the dangers of lead. He got some incredible sounds out of the instrument. Both the town and festival have web sites if anyone is interested. I think the performer was local to the area.


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Lizzie Cornish 1
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 05:15 PM

The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy - on Glass Armonica :0)


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: Joe_F
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 08:50 PM

I am sure that Dr Franklin, in paradise, is delighted to know that there is such a thing as an electric motor & that his instrument has been fitted with one. He had to wait about a century for his belief in the usefulness of electricity to be borne out.


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: GUEST,RWM
Date: 16 Dec 08 - 11:06 PM

Meadow, you are probably thinking of Dean Shostak out of Williamsburg VA. He plays the armonica and his is rare in that it uses the old style foot-treadle on the wheel instead of a modern ee-lektrik motor. There is also a blind lady (I can't recall her name) who occasionally plays one around the historic district in Philadelphia. His original is in the Franklin Institute there.

Not my favorite sound... at first you go " wow what an unusual sound";
after five minutes you think " hmm sounds a bit the same ..." after twenty minutes it's " oh God please kill me.."

Well that's my take on them anyhoo.

Robert Mouland
www.wireharp.com


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Subject: RE: Benjamin Franklin's Glass Armonica
From: GUEST,Meadowmuskrat
Date: 17 Dec 08 - 12:26 PM

Thanks RWM. The person did play using the foot treadle , so it probably was Dean Shostak. Getting back to the Festival, it features a nice selection of traditional music , stories , and crafts, not to mention some great local food. The re-creation of tossing the tea in the chesapeake is done very well.


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