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
January 17
Can You Guess?
January 17, 1969
Lady Samantha was released in England. It was one of the very first recordings by Reginald Kenneth Dwight.  You may not know him by that name, but you just might know him by the name he uses on stage.  Can You Guess how most people know Reginald?

Go to the Bottom of the Page for the Answer
What Else
Happened
Today?
Benjamin Franklin was born January 17, 1706.  In addition to his being a statesman, publisher and inventor of the franklin stove, 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.
HOME
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.
1712 - Birth of English organist and composer John Stanley in London.

1773 - Premiere of Mozart's motet Exsultate Jubilate in Milan.

1880 - Premiere of Cesar Franck's Piano Quintet in f. Marsick Quartet, with Camille Saints-Saëns at the piano, in Paris.

1884 - Premiere of Jules Massenet's opera Manon in Paris, at the Opéra-Comique.

1919 - Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Polish statesman (Prime Minister) and composer, was born.

1920 - George Handy, US big band composer, was born. (arranged for the Boyd Raeburn Orchestra)

1927 - Birth of American composer Donald Erb.

1930 - Robert Ceely, US composer, was born.

1931 - Frederick Fox, US composer, was born.

1942 - Ulf Hoelscher, German violinist, was born.
1944 - Premiere of Aaron Copland's Violin Sonata. Ruth Posselt, violin, with the composer at the piano.

1949 - Augustin Dumay, French violinist, was born.

1991 - Premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's Oboe Concerto. John Mack, with the Cleveland Orchestra.

2004 - Premiere of John Harbison´s motet Abraham. Pittsburgh Symphony and London and Krakow Symphony Chorus members. Gilbert Levine conducting. Pope John Paul II in attendance at The Vatican.
Franklin's glass armonica music
Glass Armonica Music
Click Picture to Hear Samples
At Amazon
Lady Samantha by Elton John
Augustin Dumay Plays Mozart
Augustin Dumay plays
Mozart Violin Sonatas
Did You Guess
Most people know the bespectacled Reginald Kenneth Dwight as Elton John.

Did You See the Color Clues?
Valentine Violin Scroll Heart
Orange Blossom Special Fiddle Shirt
Irish Fiddler Shirt