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glass armonica

glass armonica (Ger. Glasharmonika). Obsolete mus. instr., also known as ‘musical glasses’, comprising either (a) drinking glasses filled with water to different heights in order to leave a larger or smaller area of glass free to vibrate, and so to produce different notes; or (b) glass basins, graduated in size, fixed to a spindle revolved by pedal mechanism, the bottoms of the basins running in a trough of water, so as to be kept permanently damp. Sound is produced by rubbing the rims of the glasses with a wet finger. Gluck performed in London on the first type, Mozart on the second, for which he and Beethoven wrote mus. Donizetti wrote a part for glass (h)armonica in Lucia's Mad Scene in Lucia di Lammermoor, the alternative being fl.; and R. Strauss used it in his opera Die Frau ohne Schatten. George Crumb revived the instr. in last movt. of his Black Angels for elec. str. qt. Bruno Hoffmann is the 20th cent. virtuoso of the instr. Benjamin Franklin invented an improved vers. c.1761.

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