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date: 21 January 2021

Musical glasses [armonica; harmonica; glass harmonica]locked

  • Alec Hyatt King


[armonica; harmonica; glass harmonica]

Bell-type instruments made of glass or other brittle material that if rubbed in a certain fashion will respond like the strings of a bowed instrument, though with less capacity for nuance. They may also be struck, with moderate force, for quasi-plucking and melodic tremolo effects as on a xylophone, a method that prevails in Asia.

While it is not always possible to distinguish various types of bell or gong-chime among descriptions of ancient instruments, musical glasses in the West were evidently derived from Asian antecedents, particularly in Persia from the 11th century onwards. The earliest known European allusion to musical glasses occurs in Gaffurius’s Theorica musicae (Milan, 1492), which contains a woodcut showing the musical use of vessels in a ‘Pythagorean experiment’ ( fig.1 ). An inventory made in 1596 of the Ambras collection (now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) describes ‘Ain Instrument von Glaswerck’, three and a third octaves in compass (see Primisser, ...

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Music & Letters
Cambridge (MA), Harvard University, Harvard College Library
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Monthly Musical Record
C. Sachs: The History of Musical Instruments (New York, 1940)