History's Most Dangerous Musical Instrument: Franklin's Glass Armonica!

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Let's go back to 18th century and discover history's most dangerous musical instrument!

Source: https://mentalfloss.com/article/559029/b...

In 1761, Benjamin Franklin attended a London concert and heard a musician play a set of water-tuned wine glasses.

Enchanted by this mellow tone, Franklin invented musical instrument called "glass armonica". This instrument consists of a set of glass bowls of graduated pitches, played by rubbing the fingers over the moistened rims or by a keyboard mechanism. 

Then it started killing people...

Composers including J. G. Naumann, Padre Martini, Johann Adolph Hasse, Baldassare Galuppi, and Niccolò Jommelli, and more than 100 others composed works for the glass harmonica.

Yet, there are strange rumors that using the instrument caused both musicians and their listeners to go mad. Critics said that it overstimulated the brain; performers blamed it for dizziness, hallucinations, and palsy.

In 1808, people attributed the death of armonica virtuoso Marianne Kirchgessner to the instrument's eerie tones.

German musicologist Johann Friedrich Rochlitz said:

[The harmonica] excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood, that is an apt method for slow self-annihilation. ...

  • If you are suffering from any nervous disorder you should not play it.

  • If you are not yet ill you should not play it excessively.

  • If you are feeling melancholy you should not play it or else play uplifting pieces.

Benjamin Franklin himself described the armonica's tones as "incomparably sweet".

The predominant pitch of the armonica is in the range of 1–4 kHz, which coincides with the sound range where the brain is "not quite sure", and thus listeners have difficulty to locate where the sound comes from.

For those who want to be enchanted by its sound, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" on the glass armonica 👇

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