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Jul. 05, 2013

Playing the Ol' Armonica

by Julie Leibach

Click to enlarge images
Who’s heard of an armonica? No, not the blues harp—the armonica, sans “h.” It’s an instrument based on the water-filled-wine-glass idea, only more efficient. The brain behind the setup was none other than master innovator Benjamin Franklin.
 
As an American ambassador to England, Franklin attended a concert in 1761 featuring musical glasses—a concept explored by 17th and 18th century European musicians. While the tunes charmed him, “he thought the playing method, jumping from individual glass to glass, was too cumbersome,” says armonica player (and SciFri guest) Dennis James, citing Franklin’s diary. So, the polymath devised a way to mechanize the setup. He named his creation “armonica,” after the Italian word for harmony, armonia. In the video below, James offers a brief history and a musical number. (You can also hear James discuss the armonica on SciFri here.)

 

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About Julie Leibach

Julie is the managing editor of ScienceFriday.com. She is a huge fan of sleep and chocolate.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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