The glass harmonica

 Actually the glass harmonica has nothing to do with the type of bellows-driven instruments, except for the name "harmonica", or sometimes "armonica", that comes from the Greek word for "harmony". This common name is the reason why we included the instrument in our list with accordeon-related instruments.

Because the sounding portion is made of glass, the glass harmonica is a crystallophone. The phenomenon of rubbing a wet finger around the rim of a wine goblet goes back to Renaissance times. Even the scientist Galilei Galileo mentioned it.

Beginning 1740 the Irish musician Richard Pockrich performed in London on a set of goblets filled with varying amounts of water. He was the first to play the instrument, but his carreer was rather short as he got killed during a fire in his room. Also his instrument had been destroyed. Yet, his performances had caught the attention of Edward Delaval, a friend of Benjamin Franklin's, who extended the experiments of Pockrich. For Benjamin Franklin this experiments were an opportunity to build his own radically new arrangement of the glasses. He called it the "armonica".

In Franklin's version 37 bowls were mounted horizontally on an iron spindle. The spindle itself could be turned by means of a foot pedal. The sound also was produced by touching the rims of the bowls with water moistened fingers. Franklin had painted the rims in different colors according to the pitch of the note. With Franklin's design it was possible to play ten glasses simultaneously, if wanted. This technique is almost impossible using upright goblets.

Some of the 18th and 19th-century specimens of the armonica have survived till now. An original Benjamin Franklin armonica is in the archives of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, but it is only displayed on very rare occasions.

During the 19th century the popularity of the glass harmonica decreased, due to rumors that the instruments caused both musicians and their listeners to go mad. The German musicologist F. Rochlitz noted in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung: 
The harmonica excessively stimulates the nerves, plunges the player into a nagging depression and hence into a dark and melancholy mood that is apt method for slow self-annihilation. If you are suffering from any kind of nervous disorder, you should not play it; if you are not yet ill you should not play it; if you are feeling melancholy you should not play it.
Yet it is more likely that the players could suffer lead poisoning, because the armonicas were made of lead glass. Also the paint, used to mark visual indentification of the bowls contained lead.

From 1820 till 1930 the glass harmonica was almost unknown, though some composers, e.g. Donizetti and Richard Strauss, specified use of the instrument in their works. Only in 1984 Franklin's glass harmonica has been rebuilt by musician and glassblower Finkenbeiner, after thirty years of experimentation. Versions of these instruments are still produced on commercial base.

Nowadays the glass harmonica has been used in modern music, in movies, on television, even in literature there is a novel called "The glass harmonica", written by Louise Marley.

The glass harp is about the same instrument, only in this case the glasses are used standing upright.

Click the link to hear a glass harmonica, the sound is rather "strange".
Click the link to hear a glass harp together with an accordeon.