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thomas_bloch_armonica.jpg

This instrument is known both as a “glass harmonica” and a “glass armonica,” and I personally favor the latter spelling to distinguish it from the better-known free-reed mouth harp also called a “harmonica.” The tone of a glass armonica is stunningly beautiful; a great 18th-century myth is that the purity of its sound will eventually drive a virtuoso to madness. Thomas Bloch’s website has more info about his work and about the particular custom-built instrument shown here. [via Neatorama]

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Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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  1. KentKB says:

    Hello,
    We have had players of the glass armonica here at the San Francisco Opera, and I have asked about the “Madness”.
    All the players have told me that the original instruments were made with Lead Glass and the use of the caused Lead Poisoning to many players…. some went mad!
    The new instruments are a hard Lab glass or flint glass with no Lead.
    A very strange sounding instrument indeed. Also check out the Ondes Martenots we used in our Saint Francois d’Assise
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ondes_Martenot

    1. Matt Mets says:

      I’m so building one of those Martenots! I mean, really, I’ve built a stand and a keyboard, and just need to hook it up.

  2. Steve Hoefer says:

    Invented by Benjamin Franklin. Not much that guy didn’t get around to doing at least once. (Love to see a Maker’s profile of that guy!)

    Had the joy of setting right behind the glass harmonica player (harmonicist?) during an orchestra performance. Very memorable. After the show there was a whole group of people gathered around to ask about it.

    He was also playing an instrument on the same principle (damp fingers rubbing glass) that I’ve never found the name of. It was a line of crystal rods of different lengths fastened at one end, layed out like a piano keyboard. There was a tray of water underneath that he would regularly dampen his fingers in and run his fingers along the rods to produce sound. It had a brighter and less haunting sound than the glass harmonica.

  3. shawn says:

    Does anyone know the name of the song Bloch is playing? Someone who commented on YouTube suggested that it was Mozart’s Requiem, but it doesn’t sound like it to me.