History of the glass harp

 
Origins...
 
Many of those who see a set of wine glasses for the first time consider it most avant-garde to use it as a musical instrument. And it amazes them to learn that in the Far East glass instruments were already known in the Middle Ages. There are few clear indications as to when glass made instruments appeared for the first time. Traditional stories trace it back to 12th century China and also to 14th century Persia. In Europe, the earliest references to glass music date back to 1492. musical glassesold musical glassesFrom this time onward amateur events which featured performances on sets of wine glasses, fine tuned by the addition of small amounts of water, were documented. In 1742, the Irishman Richard Pockridge constructed and performed on an angelic organ - a set of tuned wine glasses; three years later composer Wilibald Glück delighted European audiences with his verrillon, also a set of wine glasses. It was the start of a new musical tradition.grand harmonicongrand harmonicon
 
Sewing machine?
 
The popular modern history of glass music begins with Benjamin Franklin's invention of the glass harmonica in 1761. Working with a London glassblower, he eliminated the need for water tuning by having each glass made with the correct size and thickness to give the desired pitch without being filled with any water. He made a set of glasses more compact and playable by nesting them inside each other, mounted on a spindle which was turned by a foot treadle - as in the case of sewing machine. Masters of this instrument quickly arose, and the glass harmonica took its place in the world of European art music. Among the composers writing for glass harmonica were W.A. Mozart, J.G. Naumann, L.van Beethoven, and many others. But although glass music had become such a favourite in a very short time, it died out very rapidly and disappeared completely from the European music scene after 1835. In the 20th century Richard Strauss was the first to use the glass harmonica again in its Die Frau ohne Schatten ( Vienna, 1919), but the lasting revival of glass instruments is attributed to Bruno Hoffmann, who devoted his whole life to promoting these instruments and the music.glass harmonicaglass harmonica
 
Without water...
 
The end of the glass harmonika era did not mean that this angelic organ ceased to be popular. The instrument has always been alive as a source of inspiration for innovators questing to achieve its optimum form. The grand harmonicon created by F. Hopkinson-Smith (1797-1872) was the next step in that direction. His instrument, made of 25 wine glasses fixed within a square box, did not have to be tuned with water. Smith discovered a method of mechanical tuning wine glasses by means of grinding the glass. Thus a new embodiment of angelic organ was born, one which was closer to the modern glass harp invented by Bruno Hoffmann. Hoffmann was a man who devoted his whole life to the promotion glass music. Its renaissance in modern times we owe almost entirely to him. He slightly modified the form of glass harp - the most striking innovation was his use of specially cast glasses, whose shapes were optimum for the instrument.
 
Singing glasses?
 
Performers playing on instruments made of wine glasses today use terms which are not always unambiguous. The most popular ones are (1) the very general term musical or singing glasses (German: Glasspiel, French: verillon), and (2) glass harp - which is a reference to Hoffmann's set of glasses (German: glasharfe, French: harpe de verre) In Europe the tradition revived by Hoffmann is maintained today only by a few musicians. In Poland it is cherished only by the Glass Duo.
twoja muzaruch muzyczny

Find out more - articles written by Anna Szafraniec from GlassDuo have been published in two respected musical periodicals: Ruch Muzyczny (english version) and Twoja Muza.

Glass Harp of the GlassDuo

glass harp of GlassDuoThe biggest glass harp in the world built by GlassDuo.

GlassDuo’s glass harp is the biggest professional instrument of its type in the whole world. The 5-octave scale offers interesting musical possibilities, and arrangements for two pairs of hands add harmony and characteristic richness. Thanks to this we can experience something more than just a show of musical gimmicks and instead savour the delicate tones of the glass harp, feel its enchanting uniqueness.

In a concert career spanning the best part of two decades, GlassDuo have created a number of glass harps. Each has been bigger and at the same time better suited to the needs of the duet, not only in terms of performing but also easier to transport. The latest instrument has seen the biggest developments.

The production of the wine glasses was extremely painstaking and lasted over a year. It was necessary to order 2000 wine glasses to create the largest glass harp in the world in its present form. GlassDuo decided to take the technical matters into their own hands. There was an enormous amount of work but the result surpassed the most they could have hoped for.

As well as widening the musical range of the instrument, its physical size, and – very importantly – its weight were reduced. Previously, when packed in its travel case it weighed around 200 kg, now the packed weight is only 50 kg.

glass harp of glassduo2The piano-like arrangement of the glasses, the large dimensions and the heavy weight of the previous instrument motivated GlassDuo to find a better solution.glass harp of glassduoYou can travel to the farthest corners of the globe with this instrument. Its compact construction (the wine glasses are arranged in three rows) makes travelling much easier and, above all, offers new performance possibilities.

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