On July 4, we were thinking of the country’s founders as the creators of the U.S. Constitution – providing guiding principles and legal guidelines for the new country.
Benjamin Franklin, one of those Founding Fathers, also was a music enthusiast and invented the Glass Armonica in 1761.
I knew about Franklin’s musical invention because I’d attended a performance of Dean Shostak playing the Glass Armonica a few years ago.
I wonder if my father was a budding musician. He used to make music on my mother’s Sunday-best crystal goblets until she would catch him at it and become concerned the tunes would ruin the glass.
Recently I heard a story on Science Friday about Franklin’s invention. Ira Flatow interviewed Professor Dennis James, Instructor of Glass Music at Rutgers University, who has researched Franklin’s invention and is a leading performer on the Glass Armonica.
When Franklin was living in England as he lobbied Parliament on behalf of the colonies, he attended a concert performance with musical glasses. The musician played a series of wine glasses that were filled with different levels of water, rubbing his wetted fingers on the rims of the glasses.
Franklin created a new musical invention – with various sizes of glass bowls fitted onto a cylinder. The musician would sit in front of the cylinder of glass bowls, using a foot pedal to spin the bowls. This was an improvement from the musician having to fill the glasses before the performance and then having to move around a table of glasses to play. One of Franklin’s Glass Armonica’s is located at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.
You can hear Dennis James playing the Glass Armonica as part of the Science Friday story.