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Historical Instrument

A brief history of glass instruments.

These pages are not intended to be exhaustive, or cover new ground, starting with new actors as our research has progressed, since commencing in the 80s. This summary is intended to provide the key details of a history full of new developments as well as the relationships formed between these instruments and those interested in them, in artistic, technical, scientific, philosophical and social terms.
We would like to express our gratitude to the team of curators and librarians who made the effort to research with us, at a time when the Internet had not yet been invented, particularly those working in the "Eastern European nations" who researched and responded enthusiastically to our, occasionally unexpected, questions, . Our gratitude also goes to Alec Hyatt King and Bruno Hoffmann, who prepared the ground in the 50s, opening of the way to rediscovering this forgotten musical continent. THANKS to all.The first instruments constructed for and by TransparenceS, the Glass Orchestra, are the same as those that sparked dreams in the 18th century.

- Musical glasses
- Glass harmonica
- Glass slide piano and Cristalophone
- Glass flute
- Euphone and Clavicylindre
Musical glasses. (Seraph, glass harp, seraphim, verillon, harmonicon)

instruments historiques jeu de verres

* History up to the 18th century: An object of study, more than an instrument. Played by percussion.The study of texts and traditions reveals the musical exploitation of glasses – and sections in porcelain – long-standing in remote cultural spheres.In Asia.
A compilation assembled in 1300, based on Chinese musical instruments, cites the “Shui chan”: porcelain sections struck with sticks, while in Japan, we find the “Hi”.
Other instruments proved to originate from the 14th century in Persia (“Avanie; Tardjaharat; Djarar”) and in “Arabia” the “Sazi kasat”, which are tuned while being filled with water and in the 15th century, the “Kizam” – with cups – and the “Khaurabi” – with jars.
Nowadays, in the south of India, the Jhalatarang is played, which is tuned by filling it according to the raga to be interpreted.The use of porcelain for musical purposes is therefore an ancient


instruments historiques gafori

practice in Asia.In the West.

* Before the 18th century: a scientific interest in the sound of glasses.
- 1492, in Theoria musicae, by Gafori, a print shows Pythagoras using sticks to strike glasses filled with liquid.
- 1596, an inventory of the Kunst-historsches (‘Historical Art’) Museum cites “An instrument with glass bells” – spanning 3 octaves and a third, with half tones.
- 1627 Fr. Bacon in “Sylva Sylvarum” rubs the edges of glasses in order to determine how to transfer the pressure exerted on the surface to the liquid: “the creation of wavelets and sprinkling” , but his curiosity did not extend to the sound. Presumably, taking account of the quality of glass at the time, such rubbing did not actually allow any sound to be created (type of glassmaking mixture, a lack of regularity in the glass, excessive thickness…?)
- 1638 G. Galilée in “Deux nouvelles sciences” (‘Two new sciences’) speaks very clearly about musical notes produced by applying friction to a glass. He goes on to state that one can “jump” from one octave to another with the same glass - production of harmonics. His objective involved processing mathematics of undulatory phenomena. He would observe waves on the surface of the liquid while also taking the pitch of the note into account. This allowed him to confirm what he had previously observed in terms of mathematical ratios between the length of a chord and the notes produced. The subject of his study was mathematics and physics, and not music.
- 1647, a report of voyages to the Far East written in German and describing Oriental porcelain instruments. In this way, from the 17th century onwards, the West became aware of this instrumental potential.
- 1673 Father A. Kircher in “Phonurgia nova” (‘A new method of sound production’) described a “set of glasses”, each filled differently, and spoke of its musicality. However, the shapes and thicknesses of the glasses meant the issue of a set using friction remained perplexing, and the author did not speak about this mode of interpretation.
- 1677 the tract “Deliciae physico-mathematicae” – acompilation by G. P. Harsdorfer of the works of D. Schwenter – described how to make “joyful music with wine” by filling glasses to different levels and rubbing them. This text also covers the relationship between the sounds produced and the “medicine of 4 humours».* At the start of the 18th century: glasses deployed for musical purposes:
- 1732 G. Walther in “Musicalisches lexikon” (‘Musical Lexicon’) spoke of the “Verillon”, of its construction and about how it was played in concerts, by " Master C. G. Helmond " in Silesia, accompanied by a double bass and violins. The glasses were tapped using sticks.
- 1738, J. Ph Eisel in “Musicus autodidaktos” detailed instructions for installing a set of glasses on which to play music in churches and during a range of ceremonies. The glasses were to be struck and/or rubbed.instruments historiques eisel


- The Encyclopaedia of Diderot and Alembert - article: “Verres musicaux” (‘Musical Glasses’) (Verillon) cites this instrumental practice from the Far East.

* Richard Pockridge revolutionises the method of playing (1690-1759). Ireland.
- 1741, he created his “angelical organ” (also known as: the seraph, seraphim and glass harp). His first concerts were held in 1743. Initially playing by striking, he switched to a mode of playing by friction and tuning by filling. An extraordinary character, he made the glass set into a genuine musical instrument, held numerous concerts, and performed adaptations of familiar works and popular melodies accompanied by other instruments and a male singer. His events in the Anglo-Saxon islands and his virtuosity made this musical practice a hit. He died next to his instrument in a fire.- 1746 in London and 1749 in Copenhagen: C. W Glück played public concerts on musical glasses. Such use of the latter, in public, by such a renowned personality, confirmed the interest people had in these sounds.

* Miss Ann Ford. (1737 – 1824)
"The only instrument; one from which you hear the effect without the cause" she said.
- In 1761, in London, she published a method: “Instructions for playing on the musical glasses”. Inside were details of how to put together a set of musical glasses, how to play them and an anthology of musical pieces: pieces for dancing, to accompany vocals, religious music. She performed with musical glasses all her life and enthusiastically predicted that this accompanying instrument would become "as commonplace as the harpsichord for those who sing"

* A tradition that endures in Europe.
Throughout the entire 19th century, performances of musical glasses continued at the same time as the glass harmonica rose in popularity. A popular tradition in the United Kingdom, where in 1823 (Scotland), a concert took place with two performers on 120 glasses over 6 octaves, followed in 1830 by a concert with 5 performers…

* The tradition in the United States of Americainstruments historiques grand harmonica

Sets of musical glasses would overtake the glass harmonica in terms of popularity, no doubt because the former were cheaper, considered less harmful to health and allowed a more lively playing style.Many musical glass performers also considered themselves to be the inventors of the instrument, while others set themselves up as “makers” of the same and made a business of it.
- In 1813, J. E. Franklin published a method for the “seraphim”.
- Francis Hopkinson Smith (1797-1872), descendant of Francis Hopkinson, invented the “grand harmonicon” and lodged a patent for the invention in 1826 (Which Benjamin Franklin did not do for the glass harmonica!). He also published “Instructions for the Grand Harmonicon”. This first manual included 57 pieces of secular music and 21 of religious music. The 3rd edition (1831) included more than 103 religious pieces.

* Other “inventors: J. B. J. Mattau (1788-1867)
In Brussels, this dance instructor and director of the balls at the court of Léopold 1st of Belgium, constructed large sets of glasses that he presented as his invention at the world expo in Paris in 1855. G. Rossini appreciated his talents...

instruments historiques mattauphon

* The master Bruno Hoffmann (1913-1991).
He conducted an outstanding piece of historical and repertory research and, between 1940/80, he performed in numerous concerts throughout the world and recorded pieces that had been totally forgotten.TransparenceS, the Glass Orchestra, has several sets of musical glasses spanning 4 octaves manufactured in its own workshops.

The glass harmonica (armonica, glass armonica, harmonika, glass organ…)

instruments historiques gravure harmonica

* Benjamin Franklin invents "the armonica":
A musical revolution.
- 1760, B. Franklin, a diplomat in London discovers music on glass while listening to his colleague at the Royal society, E. H. Delaval; a virtuoso in the domain. He falls under the spell of these ‘celestial’ tones. Very musical – and most ingenious – he seeks a solution to best exploit the musicality of glasses and invents “the Armonica” (glass harmonica, glass harmonica, glass armonica, Harmonika).

Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Father Beccaria:
(In which he describes his invention)
“Mr. E. Delaval (…) was the first I saw or heard. Being charmed by the sweetness of its tones, and the music he produced from. it, I wished only to see the glasses disposed in a more convenient form, and brought together in a narrower compass, so as to admit of a greater number of tones, and all within reach of hand to a person sitting before the instrument (…) To distinguish the glasses the more readily to the eye, I have paint the apparent parts of the glasses (…) turning with the foot(…) and wetting them now and then with a sponge and clean water (…) a little fine chalk upon them (…) to make them catch the glass and bring out the tones more readily.
“The advantages of this instrument are, that its tones are incomparable sweet beyond those of any other; that they may be swelled and softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressures of the finger, and continues to any length; and that the instrument, being once well tuned, never again wants tuning". "In honour of your musical language, I have borrowed from it the name of this instrument, calling it the Armonica". 13 July, 1762.
Giovanni Battista Beccaria would not respond to him until 1771...
Bardeu du Bourg translated the writing of Benjamin Franklin into French, in 1773, namely the presentation of the glass armonica.
Benefits of the new instrument:

Musical glasses Armonica
Limited set. A free set.
The glasses are tuned by filling them with liquid but evaporation means re-tuning is soon needed The cups are precisely tuned during their construction.
The instrumentalist uses considerable energy to turn the glasses around using the ends of moistened fingers. The cups turn themselves and so the energy of the instrumentalist can be focused on playing.
The space between the glasses allows chords of no more than 6 notes at best. The arrangement of the cups allows chords of 10 notes.


The fact that the cups are fitted into each other allows a greater tessitura with respect to bass notes.

According to Thomas Jefferson “The greatest gift offered to the musical world of this century, not excepting the pianoforte”

instruments historiques verrophone

Contemporary technology allows another fresh solution

Nowadays, a new material, namely standardised glass tubes, facilitates stable tuning while also retaining good length. Despite everything though, the gaps between the tubes, placed side by side, limit the overall harmonic mix of complex and widened chords. Conversely, the new mixtures used in glassmaking allow new tones to be exploited.

* Benjamin Franklin‘s other musical activities:
Benjamin Franklin, as well as singing, also played the harp and guitar, was an expert in musical history, theory and harmony. He edited and printed music and wrote as a musical critic.

* Glass harmonica in Europe. 18th and 19th centuries.
Well suited to the sensitivity of the period, the instrument rapidly conquered Europe. Its dynamic mix blended perfectly with the taste for vocal aesthetics, while its new tone attracted listeners curious about its varied instrumentals. Its ethereal and celestial sounds were reminiscent of “the music of spheres”. Its ergonomics, meanwhile, respond to efforts to seek out an enduring note . Invented in 1761:
- From 1762: Marianne Davies gave her first concerts in the British Isles.
- in 1768, she gave concerts on the continent with her soprano sister Cecilia.
- from 1774, Franz Anton Mesmer adopted the glass harmonica.

There was great success in Prussia and Austria and the Scandinavian countries, where royal orchestras would welcome the official glass harmonica player.Over time, however, the enthusiasm declined in the 19th century and Gaetano Donizetti had trouble finding an instrumentalist while composing “Lucia de Lamermoor” (1835, Naples. 1839, Paris).

Despite everything, the glass armonica would leave an indelible footprint in musical history and the musical, social and artistic imagination: Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert still spoke of it and in 1919, Richard Strauss used the sound in his opera “La femme sans ombre” (“The shadowless woman”).Today, it is estimated that almost 500 pieces written for the instrument and many other scores remain to be discovered (Occasionally, scores were composed “for the glass harmonica or pianoforte”).

instruments historiques schema harmonica

Glass harmonica in the USA. 18th and 19th centuries.

There was a genuine interest in this instrument. However, in the former colonies, "concert going" was a less popular social pastime than in Europe, hence scrutiny of programmes, press and correspondence of the time reveals that the instrument was rarely used in public concerts:
- In the south, as part of secular music, the glass armonica was used to play veritable pot pourris of songs, melodies and operatic airs, within programmes with multiple elements, comprising the works of Joseph Haydn, Adalbert Girovetz, Ignace Joseph Pleyel, Jan ladislav Dussek and André Gretry...
- In the north, based on musical practice which was more closely linked to religious life, it is quite possible to imagine the glass armonica being put to good use.

Two careers devoted to the glass harmonica.* Mary Ann Davies, first virtuoso and ambassador of the glass harmonica (1743/4?- 1816/19?)

Of Irish origin, Marianne Davies, “la Inglésina” (‘little English lady’), niece of Benjamin Franklin, gave her first concert featuring the glass harmonica in London in 1761, then around the British Isles. She also opened a continental tour in Paris (1765) : "Miss Davies offers to go to the homes of those who ask for her, sending a coach for her and letting her know the day before "(Journal "L'Avant Coureur" “Fore-Runner”). From 1768, she produced with her younger sister Cecilia, soprano. For the duo, Johann Adolph Hasse composed the cantata “l’Armonica” (Livret de Metastasio, created on 27 June, 1769). In 1773, in Vienna, Miss Mary Ann Davies met W. A. Mozart, who tried the glass harmonica, also introducing it to the future queen Marie Antoinette and lending it to Franz Anton Mesmer. Testimonial letters for the Davies sisters were sent to the royal courts by the composers Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, Nicolo Jommelli et Christoph Willibald Glück: correspondences which demonstrate the interest held by this group in the instrument from 1770!

instruments historiques kaufman

* Marianne Kirchgessner. (1769-1808): glass harmonica “Diva”.
Blind at the age of 4, the young Marianne Kirchgessner was a talented pianist, who used the piano her whole life to develop her playing of the glass armonica. The master of the chapel Aloys Schmittbauer (1717-1809) – maker, player and composer for the glass harmonica – spent 10 years introducing the instrument to her (Karlsruhe). A first patron – Joseph (Anton Siegmund)von Beroldingen – had her make an instrument, a second patron – the music editor Heinrich Philipp Bossler – accompanied her to concerts for 18 months. In tours which were mostly in Northern Europe and London between 1791 and 1800, she continued to tour around Germany and Austria from her residence in Gohlis until she passed away in 1808, the year in which Johann Wolfgang von Goethe heard her play.The press and public were unanimous: they appreciated her technical mastery, her exceptionally delicate playing and her capabilities to completely bring out the expressive potential of the glass harmonica: Instead of songs that stressed a melancholy weight, which we were used to with that instrument (…), she knew how to bring out all the subtle details of the chord mixes, play splendid compositions, subtle nuances (…) her trills were unmatched and when all around were expecting adagios only, she gracefully tackled allegro (...) she would play musical pieces that were happy, cheerful and rousing”; she sounded like “the voice of a nightingale which, at midnight, dies away in the distance; home to an enchantress” (Ch. Fr. Schubart)instruments historiques mozart

These talents impressed and reassured Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who resolved to compose for the glass armonica in 1791 (He had been familiar with the instrument since at least 1776!) He dedicated the Adagio (K.V 617.a) to Marianne Kirchgessner – a glass harmonica solo - and the Adagio and rondo (K.V 617) – a glass harmonica alto, cello, flute and oboe. During production, he was the one who held the alto. Muzio Clementi, Antonio Salieri, Johann Baptist Wanhal (Van Hall), Johann Gottlied Naumann, Joseph Haydn, Johann Friedrich Reichardt, Franz Anton Hoffmeister all attended his concerts.

Other outstanding figures.

Although no other player of the glass harmonica gained such renown, certain individuals also found themselves seduced by their mastery and sense of the instrument:
- Angélica Kauffmann (1741-1807) better known as an artist in London.
- Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741-1801), player and composer.
- The brothers Paul Mascheck (1761 - 1815 -?-) and Vincenz Mascheck (1755-1831), the second of which was renowned as a great glass harmonica player.
- Jan Ladislav Dussek (1760–1812) player and composer.
- Charles Joseph Hullmandel (1789-1850) player, teacher, author of piano textbooks.
- Dr Ch. H. Rink organist at the Darmstadt court.
- Philipp Joseph Frick (1742-1798).
- Aloys Schmittbauer (1717-1809) composer, maker and teacher.
- Karl Leopold Röllig (1754 - 1804) maker and inventor of the orphica.
- Johann Christian Müller, editor of a manual in 1788.
- The 2 Karls. Ferdinand Pöhl (father and son) players and makers of glass armonicas.
- Franz Conrad Bartl, (1750-1813) maker of the glass harmonica with keyboard

Making glass armonicas.* The classical instrument.
- Tessitura: most commonly over 3 and a quarter octaves – the tessitura was (generally speaking) do ré 146.8 Hz => mi 1318 Hz. (Remembering that the range at the time was almost a quarter-tone lower)
- Mostly made from soda-lime glass.
-White and/or coloured glass (mass-produced or hand-painted).
- Made to rotate: using a pedal/gear mechanism of the "sewing machine" type – eccentric at the end of the axle – and/or using a crank.
- Furnished with various kinds of wood, decorative or non-decorative.

* Various improvements and transformations.
The makers of the glass harmonica sought to optimize its expressive potential by improving the vibration mechanism and playing comfort.
- By attaching a damper to the end of the axle to facilitate its rotation.
- By installing a reduction gear system (for wheels, axles and belts) to enable different speeds.
- By signalling note changes with coloured bands.
- By casting glass of various qualities.
- By minimising the background noise using suspension (noise from the pedal operation drowning out the volume of an instrument which was not loud to start with)instruments historiques harmonica a clavier

- By installing a keyboard:
- To “facilitate” the playing and learning of the instrument. With this in mind, Benjamin Franklin was keen on such works (Letter to the Count of Salmes. Passy. 1785)
- To avoid the need to rub the bells with the fingers (Suspected medical risk).
The job of rubbing the bells was assigned to stamps situated at the end of the key (Mazzuchi in 1779 pondered installing bows). However, this wealth of work produced instruments that were bulky, noisy and costly but with no improvement in the musical qualities. Each bell had its own shape and learning its touch was an inevitable step if the player wished to be able to “harness” the vibration mechanism and thus obtain the desired sound. These mechanised systems had reached a dead-end.
Among those who promoted the keyboard system we may cite: 1769 Philipp Joseph Frick; 1782 Hessel of St. Petersburg; 1784 H. Klein, Meyer and D. F. Nicolai of Görtlitz; 1785 Hessel of Petersburg; 1786 L. C. Röllig; 1787 Hopkinson of the EU (With metal bells: “the bellarmonie”) 1797 F. C. Bartl of Olmütz; 1798 Grassa in Bohemia...

* The makers and production of glass armonicas.

A genuine "industry" of glass armonicas? It is difficult to get a clear picture on the number of instruments constructed based solely on the number now preserved in museums. We have to delve into human, technical and financial information concerning their manufacture and trade. It is certain that a significant number of aficionados made instruments – or had them made - but how could they make it transcend to reach a new audience beyond their friends andassociates?
Based on current research, the Pöhl family line seems to be an exception.

* The Pöhl family: makers of glass harmonicas from the 18th to the 20th century.

- Franz Ferdinand Pöhl (1748-1809) a carpenter by trade, constructed a glass armonica after making contact with a glassmakers in Oberkreibeitz in Bohemia, then marketed it (trade fairs in Leipzig, Dresden, Prague and Vienna). He became the supplier to the royal family of Esterhazy as well as playing himself. Two of his sons would also go on to follow in his footsteps:
(1) Karl. Ferdinand Pöhl: maker, player and composer. Chamber musician. Librarian of music at the Darmstadt court until 1818.
- His son Karl Ferdinand (grandson). Author of a book on the glass armonica and a biography of Joseph Haydn.
(2) Alois Karl Pöhl. Manufacturing commenced at Kreibitz (1816)
- His son Emanuel Pöhl (grandson) was a maker (Kreibitz) and player. Instruments presented to the universal expo of London (1862).
- His son Karl Ferdinand Pöhl (3rd generation) restored and made armonicas until 1945 in Zittau. He was the one who repaired the glass armonica for "La femme sans ombre" (‘The shadowless woman’). Richard Strauss (Creation at the Vienna Opera in 1919). Bruno Hoffmann played for him in 1942.

18th century: restrictive performance and listening conditions.

instruments historiques harpeIn the 18th century, having acquired this costly and fragile instrument, the other factors of playing it had to be sought out:
- The atmosphere and water: it is desirable to have “a temperate atmosphere, hands neither too warm, nor too cold” (Karl Leopold Röllig), in order to start the base of the cup vibrating and not its harmonics. The players of the time liked to bring “their own” water with them. “Spring water” was especially appreciated. Attempts were made to facilitate efforts to get hold of the cup by preparing the fingers. Benjamin Franklin would use chalk.
- Specific training: the piano technique required fingers to act as “mini hammers”, since the playing of the glass harmonica required the phalanges of the hand to be placed in "brushes", with fingers tensed. The gap between the cups was greater than that between the keys. It was a very specialised playing technique and teachers were few and far between...
- - A slow and difficult playing dynamic: the vibration action was slow and engendered the risk of harmonic "collisions" rather than the basic note of the bell. To go above adagio was thus difficult: “Mastering the speed of scanning is one of the secrets to playing the instrument well (...) roulades and passages are not made for this instrument”. However, “he has sparked a renewed taste for adagio and largo”. There is a need to “play on the crescendo and decrescendo (...) play pieces not changing too much, but tending to modulate” (Karl Leopold Röllig)) “It is not designed for allegro” (Johann Christian Müller)
- Intimate spaces: by nature, glass materials tend not to give off many vibrations, hence the relative softness of the sound produced. What you need is “a distance from the public, not too far nor too close” (K. L. Röllig). However, during the second half of the 18th century, more and more concerts took place in larger concert halls and fewer and fewer in lounges...

18th century: possibilities of expression and an era of sensitivity.

- However, it was an undiscovered musicality, very expressive and responding to the tastes of the era: “Just like the great passions, which flare up only briefly with the highest of expressiveness, that is how the armonica came into being”.
It was an instrument “with which you could create both miraculous and terrifying effects (...) reminiscent of religious and melancholic feelings, very lofty and noble”. Karl Leopold Röllig concluded: “the effect this instrument produces is nothing less than a miracle”Johann Christian Müller, via his training manual, “would be delighted to be able to add a touch (to musicians and music-lovers) of secret and celestial joys”


But there came a time when the craze for the instrument began to reach its limits. The new tones it had brought enriched the palette of composers seeking a varied form of instrumentation. Its “ethereal” notes captivated and moved those at the end of the century where people once again imagined the dream of the existence of a “music of spheres” and of celestial harmonies. Finally, the instrument responded to the quest for an enduring sound of which the volume could be adjusted, as for a human voice…

An instrument which "feels the suffering"

Karl Leopold Röllig wrote “quivering nerves, vertigo, cramps, tumours, paralysis of the arms and legs, one by one, those remaining who were waiting for me with an inexpressible passion for this instrument (...) worst of all, it was my imagination which caused me to dream with eyes wide open (…) see ghosts at night (...) which seemed to bring news of my demise (…) for I was sat in front of the instrument day and night (...) how could I have ever believed that my hardship came from the thing that makes me happy” .[traduire la citation]

I. The glass armonica: health, medicine and “state of the soul”

.An unhealthy instrument?
The tones of the musical glasses already left many perplexed. In 1761, Joseph Louis Roger wrote (Tentamen de vi soni and musices in corpore humano,translated into French in 1803): “The melancholy tone of the harmonica plunges us into a deep dejection and relaxes all the nerves of the body, to the point where even the hardiest of men would not be able to bear one hour of listening to it without feeling bad (…) a general malaise comparable to that which we feel from the gust of midday wind (...)even the hardiest of men would not be able to bear one hour of listening to it without feeling bad (...) this instrument, which still holds many untried possibilities, was first discovered by an Englishman named Puckridge, who hit upon the idea when with the Persians”. He added that the Aeolian harp could cause fevers...
For the glass armonica, attempts were made to limit the nervous shaking by attaching a keyboard.A beneficial instrument?
This analysis contradicts the opinion of G. P. Harsdorfer who, in 1636, stated that the music produced by the glasses could treat the "weakness of blood" and Fabre d’Olivet, in the 18th century, used the glass harmonica to communicate with the deaf and study their sensations.A very expressive instrument!
It is the very ambivalence itself of the effects (joy and sadness) which reverberate within the 18th century. Right up to the present, the glass harmonica retains a suggestive power and can trigger contradictory emotions: a seductive force; attractive for some and a source of anxiety and repulsive for others...
As the 18th century came to a close and the 19th century started, there was general melancholy and people were prone to weeping. The forerunners, "more sensitive souls" than others, the Enlightenment virtuoso (Cecilia Davies, Johann Gottlieb Naumann, Maria Kirchgessner ...) reaching the romantic era of Passion ahead of time. They were surrounded by melancholy cries and found that the sounds of the glass armonica reflected their own inclinations. This heightened sensitivity, combined with a hefty workload, led to pervasive fatigue and strong emotional tension, which sometimes required them to be made to rest.


II. The case of Frantz Anton Mesmer

We accuse Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) as being the destroyer of the glass harmonica, based on the work he carried out. We must remember that the “sulphurous” notoriety of the instrument was the talking point of the time and that it came before doctors were commonplace in Paris. Here are the facts briefly summed up:(1) In Paris: In a room adjoining that housing the patient’s chair - and only in the room where paying patients were welcomed – an orchestra played (violin, pianoforte, flute, soprano vocalist). No one accused these four instruments of endangering the mental or physical health of those who listened. We “mesmerise” these instruments to render them effective vectors of magnetic fluid. In Paris, F. A. Mesmer would play the glass armonica in a private lounge rather than a clinic.(2) Mesmerian therapy works on excitation and heightening the emotions. The music, which is chosen based on the condition of the patients, must help bring them to a modified state of conscience (trance). This means it is not a relaxation aid, which is what would have been sought with the armonica if it had been played.
(3) The sound is a material medium to drive a liquid, just like a magnetiser and mirrors. In the 16th century, a proposal concerning animal magnetism was put forward by F. A. Mesmer: “animal magnetism” is communicated, propagated and amplified “by sound” (and not “by music”)
(4) F. A. Mesmer was a good musician, a convert to the glass armonica (He wanted to hear it when in agony). C. W. Gluck, impressed by his mastery of the instrument (Paris. 1779), encouraged him to develop his talents as an improviser and singer during evenings with a romantic theme that he would organise before they had been invented. A friend of Gluck and Piccini, he took the side of neither, but tended to be closer to “anti-establishment” musicians of the time (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn). His siren-like seducing by the armonica is similar to that of the other music-lovers of the time.
(5) It was his doctor “colleagues” who seized on the novel musical therapy practice – exciting rather than relaxing -, to attack his entire therapy. At the time, for psychiatrists engaged in musical therapy practice, music had to act to tone down morals and not excite emotions. These traditionalists were firmly in the camp that considered the use of a novel instrument to be "impure", "diabolical", and "taboo".
(6) Behind these attacks lay the eroticisms of the “hypnosis” sessions – in which music was used – which was the idea. The steering board was convinced that the music caused excitement, especially among women. The latter “would succumb” to its device as pleasurable feelings came to life. The glass armonica became negative due to its associations with a style of music that was no longer innocent, entertaining and listened to from armchairs but one inside a closed and subdued universe. It became the scapegoat of strong criticism and fear of the new forms of therapy.

In the 19th century however, the glass armonica was not the only musical instrument arousing fear as to its effects on the soul, since the violin of Niccolò Paganini was also considered to be an instrument of the devil, to seduce and bewitch women... and in the 20th century, certain municipalities forbade the playing of the musical saw within their regions...


Hypothesis on the causes of the disaffection.

Numerous instruments have captured the attention of composers but without winning a place within western symphony orchestras: not least the glass armonica. Every era has its own favourites.
Several reasons can explain this enforced dormancy:
- Its relative expense, fragility and the difficulty of repairing it in the 18th century.
- Established mode of manufacture, based on complex crafting expertise.
- A lack of powerful sound.
- An interesting repertoire, but one no longer matching the taste of the public and the listening conditions.
- Evolved sensitivity.
- A lack of teaching.
- Competition from the piano: powerful, solid, and “more orchestral”.
- Prejudged by pseudo-scientists and the medical profession.
- Limited deployment linked to the fundamental aspects of the instrument itself: weak intensity, difficulty in playing rapidly, difficulty in stimulating the vibrations, difficulty in playing high and low notes simultaneously and limited tessitura.

The repertoire.* Instrument music.
* Vocal music.

In the year 1780, mixtures of vocals and the glass armonica were appreciated for their "similarity" in terms of expressiveness and their ability to be played at a crescendo and decrescendo (The other keyboard instruments at the time lacked this full capacity). Karl Leopold Rollig exploited these qualities and composed for this duo. However, he insisted that the focus should be on achieving a balance between singing and the sound made by the glass armonica.
The 18th century was one in love with vocal music (Even if, by the end of the century, there was more and more interest in instrumental music thanks to its diverse sonority)
- Puckridge commenced his career as a player of musical glasses accompanying the singing of John Carteret Pilkington.
- Miss Ann Ford, in 1761, proposed the marriage of singing and musical glasses: "an Instrument that (...) set off the Voice with greater Advantage than any other (...) and will assist and improve the Voice" . Her treatise proposed pieces performed as duets with vocals.
- In Williamsburg (USA). In 1774 “La signora Castelle” performed with the accompaniment of a glass armonica.
- Benjamin Franklin appreciated the glass armonica accompanyment when he sang.
- Johann Adolf Hasse (Music) and Pietro Metastasio (Lyrics) in 1769, composed " l'Armonica ", cantata created as a public concert by the Davies sisters for the marriage of the Duke of Parma and the Arch-duchesse of Austria. The cantata celebrated the harmonious mix of both tones:


Text of "L'Armonica"Ah perchè col canot mio
Dolce all'ame ordir catena,
Perchè mai non posso anch'io
Filomena, al par di te?S'oggi all'aure un labbro spande
Rozzie accenti è troppo audace;
Ma se tace in di si grande,
Men colpevole mon è.
Ardir, germana: a' tuoi sonori adatta
Volubili cristalli
L'esperta man: e ne risvelgia il raro
Concento seduttor. Col cano anch'io
Tenerò d'imitarne
L'amoroso tenor
. D'applausi e voti
Or che la Parma e l''istro
D'Amalia e di Fernando
Agli augusti imenei tuto risuona,
Saria fallo il tacer. Ne te del nuovo
Armonica strumento
Renda dubbiiosa il lento,
Il tenue, il flebil suono
. Abbiasi Marte
I suoi d'ire minitri
Strepitosi oricalchi; ua soave
Armonia, no di sdegni
Ma di teneri affetti eccitrice,
Più conviene ad amor; meglio accompagna
Quel che dall' alma bella
Si trasonde sul volto
All Sposa Real placido lume,
Il benigno cosume,
La dolce maestà. Benchè sommesso
Lo stil de' nostri accenti
A Lei grato sarà; che l'umil suono
Non è colpo o difetto;
E sempre in suono umil parla il rispetto.All stagion de' fiori
E de'novelli amori
E grato il molle fiato
'un zeffiro leggier.O gema tra le fronde
O lento increspi l'onde;
Zeffiro in ogni lato
Compagno è del piacer.

- David August von Apel (1787) “Il trionfo della Musica” (armonica, harp and 3 soprano voices)
- J. C. Moller, 1794 played compositions with 2 tenors.
- Operas accorded the tones of the glass armonica a significant place within the general setting of the work:
- Johann Fredrich Reichardt (1802) "Herkules Tod"
- Gaetano Donizetti (1835) "Lucia de Lamermoor"
- Mikhaïl Ivanovitch Glinka (1842) " Rouslan and Ludmilla"
- Richard Strauss (1918) "Die Frau ohne Schatten"The glass armonica also found itself featured in dramas:
- Ludwig van Beethoven for "Melodram" in Leonore Prohaska (1815) utilised the tones of the glass harmonica in accompanying the recitative work.
- Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller "Die Jungfrau von Orléans" (1801): accompanied by the monologue “Johanna’s Farewell”
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge "Osorio" (1797) revised as "Remords" (1816) desired an accompaniment of the glass harmonica (or celestine, or the Clagget metallic organ)alt

As well as these dramas, the glass armonica was played as an accompaniment for declamations and played a role in other types of shows: Messrs. Gyngell in London, Schobert in Leipzig, and Étienne-Gaspard Robertson (Fantasmagories) combined glass music with projections from magical lanterns.The study of correspondence and the press gives us reason to believe that there remain works created for duos and trios of the glass armonica still to be discovered.
Let’s not forget that a good many pieces have been written for the pianoforte and/or the glass armonica.

Literary and philosophical success


The enthusiasm for the glass armonica at the end of the 18th century was unquenchable. "Popular", within the limits imposed by its high cost and difficulty in playing, it opened up a new world of sound to both the players and the public. The expressive capacities of its evocative tones and the passions it aroused help it stamp an indelible mark on the western artistic and literary imagination. The ingenuity of the system involved encouraged inventors, the knowledgeable and technicians.With the Enlightenment reaching a close, the Romantic and post Romantic period saw the glass armonica take hold and its stretched and delicate sound seemed almost to come from another galaxy. Both the instrument and its music, synonymous with a certain “esotericism”, became signs and/or sesames of an accession to the Absolute, to the Ideal. Comrades on the initiatory routes, some believed they opened the gateway to the “Occult” and spoke of the “ineffable” ...
- Claude Nicolas Ledoux integrated it as a musical cornerstone within his ideal architecture.
- Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann: writer, incorporated the glass armonica into several novels (L'homme au sable, Lettre du maître de chapelle Jean Kreisler, ...) and delivered contradictory judgements as a musical critic (Very popular with readers)
- Novalis: Work on consonants and vowels: “The consonants are positions for the fingers to play a musical instrument (...) Structure of the instrument. Harmonica. Euphony. Keyboard harmonica. Why do waves and water currents lack sound? The "Acousticity" of air. Vibrations of a notch charged with electricity."
- Johann Paul Friedrich Richter: Hesperus, Leben des QuintusFixlein, Titan, Vie de l’heureux maître d’école Maria Wuz d’Aenthal “the setting sun shed its blossom like a rose; the red of the evening lit up the nights and nature played from dusk to dawn on the Philomene harmonica”, La coupe.
- Christoph Martin Wieland:" Die harmonika"...
- François-René, Viscount of Chateaubriand: “the ear of a man would hear the complaints of a divine harmonica” Natchez
- Adam Bernard Mickiewicz: "La grande improvisation"
- Théophile Gauthier: “this chanterelle note, vibrating like a armonica” Clair de lune sentimental.
- Frantz Liszt in "Frédéric Chopin" compared the subtlety of Chopin’s touch as “a smell of verbena” or
"the action of a glass armonica”.
- Georges Sand "Consuelo, La Comtesse de Rudolstadt"
- Honoré de Balzac: "Modeste Mignon"
- Gustave Flaubert: "Bouvard and Pécuchet"
- Élise Polko: "L'invention de l'harmonica"
- Arthur Conan Doyle: "the History of Spiritualism".

...Instrumental "cousins"


The glass armonica represents a perfect answer to the long-held ideal, namely to find an instrument that replicates the human voice. Moreover, it allows several notes to be played at the same time! By suppressing the sound of the rubbing and speeding up the vibration action, the inventors tried to get closer to the ideal sound, that of a pure note (The “music of nature”).- Ernst Chladni (1756-1827). He invented the clavicylinder: iron rods tuned and operated by a keyboard, are made to vibrate by causing them to rub against a rotating glass roller. Further evolving this system, he invented the Euphone: featuring glass rods which were used to vibrate tuned metal rods: the glass now serving as the agitator and revealing the sound of metal that you hear. “It responded more swiftly and thus allowed the user to play faster and with greater precision than the glass harmonica” (F. C. Bartl) The reduced area of rubbing surface helped ease the background noise and create a purer note, despite the lack of power in the sound produced. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy was a great fan of its softness: although he didn’t feature it in any of his pieces!
- Johann Christian Dietz (1773(?)-1849). The melodion: tubes of copper are made to vibrate by rubbing a pewter roller, via metal bars.
- Johann David Buschmann (1773-1853). The terpodion: tuned wooden strips were played by rubbing against a rosin wood rotating roller. A laudatory article from Carl Maria von Weber. His Uranion used a tissue-covered roller.

The other glass instruments* Glass blade piano; Piano-harmonica; Harmonica with keyboard; Glasscord; Glasschord; Cristallocord.


- Invented by Sieur Beyer, German doctor residing in Paris. He presented his invention to the Academy of Sciences in Paris in 1785: hammers wrapped in silk, operated via a keyboard, struck tuned blades of glass (4 octaves). Benjamin Franklin dubbed this instrument the glass-cord. Chapell in England constructed a model with glass strips, and this was also known as the harmonica with a keyboard. Frantz Litz, as well as owning a piano-harmonium, also possessed a piano-harmonica: calling it his "glass harmonica toy".
The harmonica was also the name given in the 19th century to a glockenspiel using glass blades. In the course of the 19th century, almost all instruments using glass were known as harmonicas. D. Ironmonge in 1840 described a method of “harmonica glasses, double and simple”: an instrument featuring glass blades. Later, this would be called a “Cristallophone”
- Hector Berlioz (1803-1869). Fantasy based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest. 1830. Keyboard harmonica.
- Daniel François Esprit Auber (1782-1871). “L’enfant prodige”. 1850. Glass bladed instrument.
- Jacques Fromental Halévy (1799-1862). “Le Juif errant” 1852. Glass bladed instrument.
- Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1821). “Le Carnaval des animaux”. The aquarium. 1886. Harmonica (Glockenspiel using glass blades)

* Glass flute


Patent lodged on 10th September 1806:
"Mr Laurent (Claude), who had long sought the means to remedy thetendency of flutes to alter their various tones due to the influence of hygrometric variations and wishing, at the same time, to render the sound of this instrument clean and with perfect purity, found crystal to be the right choice to give its sound the softness and purity he sought, in tones that remained the same and with an instrument that gave him the graceful note and faculty he longed for" (...) "These keys are embellished with jewels which shed lots of light over the instrument..". The aesthetic charms of the instrument make it even more dreamlike to behold...

* Pyrophone


In the 18th century, there was talk of a “chemical harmonica”.
“An instrument with dancing flames, invented by Mr. Kastner; it is a type of organ in which the pipes are replaced by glass tubes, which are used to house flames supplied by two lit gas outlets; when the flames were drawn together to merge, the sound died, and when they were moved apart, the sounds produced become more or less high or low, depending on the length of the tubes” Dict. Littré.
Invention of Mr Georges Frédéric Eugène Kastner (1852- 1882) who wrote a book and lodged a patent for “The singing flames” in 1875.VIDEO: PLAYING ON THE MODEL CONSTRUCTED BY F. KASTNER