Corey Mead

Angelic Music: The Story of Ben Franklin’s Glass Armonica

Published by Simon & Schuster

Dec 02, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


In 1761, Ben Franklin invented an instrument, the glass armonica. Made of glass bowls stacked on their sides along a rotating spindle, the glass armonica was to be rubbed by wet fingers, thus producing a haunting sound. People thought that the instrument's music could heal illness, and alternately also drive people insane. In its heyday, composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Handel composed pieces for it. It was played by Marie Antoinette, among others, and it became central to the hypnotizing sessions of Franz Mesmer.

Corey Mead's Angelic Music follows the history of the glass armonica, from its pre-Franklin origins through its rise, subsequent downfall, and a "resurgence" that can really only be described as niche. The book can bog down at times, most notably during the most unfortunately named chapter "A Brief History of Glass," but overall, Mead's narrative is a fascinating look into the history of an instrument most probably never knew existed.

Practically of course, the glass armonica is an unwieldy and difficult instrument to play. Most of us probably haven't actually heard one. Still, Mead's book brings back a history that was largely forgotten to time. (www.simonandschusterpublishing.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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