Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
April 17
Did You Guess?
At the climax of the song the man, who has been searching for his father for many years, meets him.  The first words out of his mouth are, "
My name is Sue!  How do you do?"  His father had named him Sue to make him tough, because he knew he wouldn't be there to raise him.
Can You Guess?
O
n this date in 1970  Johnny Cash performed at the White House at the invitation of President Richard M. Nixon. He played a song about a young man with an unusual problem.  Can You Guess what the man's problem was?

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
What Else
Happened
Today?
Benjamin Franklin, author and statesman, died April 17, 1790.

Although not usually thought of in the field of music, Benjamin Franklin was the inventor of the Glass Armonica.  The instrument is based on skimming moist fingers around the top of drinking glasses. It was refined as a large spinning drum which contained glass bowls of various sizes, and is pictured at the right.

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Benjamin Franklin
and the
Glass Armonica
In 1757 Benjamin Franklin attended a concert during which the performer played music by skimming his moistened finger around the rims of wine glasses.  Franklin said that he thought it was the loveliest music he had ever heard.  But Franklin was not just interested in performing melodies, he wanted a way to play multiple notes to produce harmony.  In 1761 Franklin invented the armonica.  The name was taken from the Italian word for "harmony." Some have said that if the harp is "the instrument of the Angels", then the Armonica is "the voice of the Angels".
Graduated size bowls with holes and corks in their centers were put onto a horizontal spindle and rotated by a fly wheel and a foot pedal. Moistened fingers rubbed the edges to produce sound.
Franklin needed a way to identify the notes of the bowls. He painted seven bowls that we would identify with the white keys on a piano the seven colors of the rainbow and the five black keys, white. In 1785 Karl Rollig of Germany began the practice of gold banding the bowls.

The Armonica was an instant success. Marie Antoinette took lessons on it.  Mesmer, the famous hypnotist Mesmer used it. He said that it put his patients into a deeper trance.  Famous composers wrote music for the instrument, among them were Mozart, Beethoven, Donizetti, Richard Strauss, and Saint-Saens.

In the mid-1800's the instrument began to lose its popularity.  The haunting sound of the armonica were said to evoke the spirits of the dead.  Some said that it drove performers insane.  Ultimately, the instrument was all but lost.
Franklin's Armonica at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia
In 1982 master glass blower Gerhard Finkenbeiner of Waltham Massachusetts developed an interest in the instrument.  He believed that pure crystal, instead of the glass of Franklin's day, would produce a purer tone.
Although Finkenbeiner was lost in a plane crash in 1999 his company, G. Finkenbeiner, Inc., continues to manufacture and repair the instruments.
1833 - US premiere of  Mozart's opera The Magic Flute performed in English, at the Park Theatre in New York City.

1885 - Cecil Burleigh, US violinist and composer, was born.

1903 - Gregor Piatigorsky, Russian cellist and teacher, was born. Principal cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic.  Taught at Curtis and USC.

1918 - Premiere of Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 4 and Two Sonatinas, Op. 54, in Petrograd, by the composer

1965 - Premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Variations an Aldous Huxley Memoriam and Introitus a T.S. Eliot Memoriam. Chicago Symphony conducted by Robert Craft.

1965 - The Beach Boys' Help Me Rhonda was released.

2003 - Premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina's The Light of the End. Boston Symphony, Kurt Masur, conducting.
Franklin's glass armonica music
Glass Armonica Music
Click Picture to Hear Samples
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Johnny Cash
Mom Loves Violin Shirt
Mom Loves the Violin
Almost as Much as
She Loves ME!
There's a Sample of
Boy Named Sue
on Amazon
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