Instruments | Glass Armonica | Classical Era | Classical
Perhaps with medieval Persian origins, the glass armonica entered into the Western musical mainstream only in the eighteenth century. A series of glass vessels could be tuned by having the appropriate quantity of water poured into them; they were then struck like bells to produce a ringing sound, or the rims were dampened and then rubbed. Gluck played a concerto on such an instrument in the 1740s, but it was the American Benjamin Franklin (1706–90) who in 1761 took on the task of producing a serious instrument. Carefully grading the size of the vessels and mounting them to ensure they were secure and that the rims were close together, he achieved an instrument on which chords and runs were possible.
Although in 1791 Mozart composed a quintet (K617) for glass armonica, flute, oboe, viola and cello for the famous blind performer Marianne Kirchgessner (1769–1808), the instrument had fallen out of fashion by the mid-nineteenth century.
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