Glassmaking dates back some 3500 years to early Mesopotamia, the tradition growing
and improving with techniques and tools of ancient Egyptian and Phoenician artisans.
Blowpipes were used later in Rome, and by the 16th century, fine, clear blown glass
vessels were being manufactured all over Europe. Glass instruments developed during
this time, although in Asia the practice of water-tuning porcelain or glass bowls
and striking them with sticks had already been established. In the 1700's the German
composer Glück, and an Irishman named Richard Pockritch popularized the use of wet
fingers and friction to coax music out of an array of tuned glasses. Skilled glassmakers
could also vary the sizes and thickness of cups to sound exact pitches, eliminating
the need for tuning water. As it grew in renown, the instrument now referred to as
glass harp or 'musical glasses' had a host of names: "Seraphim" (perhaps a reference
to the ethereal sound), "Grand Harmonicon," Verillon," even "Angelic Organ."
And A little Science
Glass is a superheated and cooled mixture of sand, soda, and lime. It's an extraordinary
substance-technically a liquid in suspension. Like the action of a bow to a violin
string, the rim of a glass will alternately 'catch and release' from a rubbing finger.
As a glass is played it changes its shape, just like a violin string or any other
vibrating musical material. A glass does this by expanding and contracting at points
along its circumference. The pitch of a glass will go lower with the addition of
water because this 'spring' action is slowed.
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Welcome! Whether you are an educator – or an event planner, or here simply for the
pleasure of this unique art, you’ll find everything you need using the navigation
at the top of each page. Scroll down for some quick info on the glass harp. CDs are
available for purchase on therecordings page.
Brien Engel is one such passionate explorer of these rare sounds.
In addition to bringing a unique style and fresh challenges to the glass harp, he
offers a full repertoire of music and presentations for all venues.
Enthralling tones from ordinary glassware can be enjoyed right from our kitchen cabinets....
A few of us take the idea into a lifetime of passion and exploration.