The Lost Art of Playing Glass

The Lost Art of Playing Glass


(ethereal vibratory music) – [Dean] The glass armonica,
really had this effect on people who heard it. I mean, they were saying
it was the most beautiful sound they’d ever heard. And there were a lot of beautiful sounds in the 18th century. But you know, there
was something different in the sound of the armonica. I wanted to give people
that come to Williamsburg an experience that they
wouldn’t get anywhere else. (twangy music) – [Chris] I’m Chris Funk. I’m a musician in a band
called The Decemberists, and I’m on a journey looking
for the most surprising and extraordinary people in music. My next stop takes me to
Williamsburg, Virginia. There, I will meet one
of the last true masters of an enchanting instrument,
forgotten by time. (ethereal vibratory music) I’ve traveled to Virginia and stepped back into history, to meet a musician who’s perfected a rather unusual medium, glass. – My name is Dean Shostak, here in Williamsberg, where I live. And I play the glass harmonica, but I also play a number of
other glass instruments, too, like this Cristal baschet. – [Chris] Dean has spent years mastering the skills necessary to play this family of glass instruments, all of which originated
with the glass armonica, an instrument with a
very unexpected creator. (banjo playing) (ethereal vibratory music) – [Dean] The glass armonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761. He had seen somebody
play on the wine glasses in a concert, and he got the idea that he could actually use glass in an entirely different way. You could actually make them rotate with a fly wheel you’re
working with your foot. And with wet fingers, you could play it very
much like a keyboard. (laughing) – Almost had it. (enchanting music) Obviously, you don’t tune this instrument. – No, that’s the one nice thing, everybody has to tune to me. First thing you need to do is
get your hands really clean. And that takes a high calcium content in the water, which they happen to have here at this theater. So, I’ve got these jugs; I literally actually bring the water from the theater back to my house, to have the same water to
play with all the time. The skin absorbs moisture, and so you really want your hands to start wrinkling up a little bit, too. The condition of the skin on your fingers is really what produces the sounds. (ethereal vibratory music) – [Chris] And those
mesmerizing sounds produced by skin on glass are not limited to the glass armonica
or the Cristal baschet. The technique has led to some
truly bizarre instruments. (trumpeting) Wow. (trumpeting) (hornlike vibrating) – [Dean] I’ve heard the
argument made that, you know, we’ve gone as far as we can
with acoustic instruments. (trumpeting) If you think about glass music as a still unexplored musical frontier, it’s pretty exciting to think what instruments we could try in glass. You know, but we don’t know until
we make these instruments what they’re gonna be like. (ethereal vibratory music) I think we should know
about the glass armonica, because it’s truly the
first American instrument, you know, aside from the Native American
instruments already here. I absolutely had to
teach myself how to play. My only sources were
reading what Franklin wrote and these other guys back in the time. It is new every day. Every time I sit down
and play the armonica, it is a fresh experience and a challenge each time. (ethereal vibratory music)

97 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Playing Glass”

  1. That wasn't a very big story, they didn't even tell us about the other glass instruments or let us hear any of the numerous songs composed just for this instrument.

  2. The problem is with playing glass….it get incredible monotone after a couple of minutes of listening to it. It would be fantastic as additional instrumentals in ambient what not. But that's where it really ends for me

  3. I remember hearing a story once about when Ben Franklin played it for the first time. His wife was woken up by it, and she described it as so beautiful that she thought she had died. She thought that angels were serenading her as she entered heaven. Honestly I feel that.

  4. Wow what an extraordinary instrument the glass harmonica by far one of my favorite instruments I've ever heard it I love the sound of it 😎😁✌️

  5. Am I the only one that feels like instruments like this aren't popular because they can harness power we couldn't conceive ? like levitation (hits joint) I mean this music manipulates my vibration like I've never felt before .. maybe that's why some people go mad ?

  6. Could you make a glass piano? You have a piano keys and how it would work is you have a material that would act like a finger and it would never go dry if you had a tube of water to rehydrate the material.

  7. One could work with the producers of quartz singing bowls to produce bowls with perfect intonation for this type of intrument.

  8. I've been there and meet Dean Shostak, as well as got to play on a miniature replica glass armonica! It's not easy.

  9. very interesting! I didn't know of the existence of a glass harmonica and I had no idea Benjamin Franklin was the one who invented it. I love youtube.

  10. Mozart actualy composed a beautiful music for this instrument. He was always into composing for newly discovered ones. It is caled "Adagio and Rondo" K.617. This is for glass harmonica and a quartet violin, flute, oboe and cello. He also has some solo compositions for this instrument.

  11. what is it all of a sudden with bunches of idiots using 'also' and 'too' in one short sentence. is this a new verbal virus, like [google it] sexy baby voice?

  12. Crazy new vocabulary word I probably won't be able to remember… or pronounce (;-) hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica

  13. Hmmm after a Decemberists show in st Louis in about 2009, this freak stood just beyond the autograph seekers, downing a bottle of Jack, staring…

  14. glass is weird i see it when i sleep i do not want eat it but it does not allow me to stop i hear the pain of the walls and the blood of jesus please help me with my troubles and not let me succumb to my despairs while a drift along the winding river of time and space holding onto the tree trunk from the forest of hope my heart burns with the voices of the dead.

  15. i really love this instrument. as a child i was acutally able to see a man play it live at the Richmond folk festival.
    edit: i think i actually saw THIS GUY in RVA at the folk festival. 8+ years ago

  16. Make it stop! That is offensive.
    How about you make a fingernails on the chalkboard a monica?
    Yah! Or a chewing on tinfoilaphone.
    Still sounds better than today's rap music though.

  17. Seems dangerous. What stops a person from breaking the glass and stabbing someone with it? Might as well make an instrument out of knives or guns. Not in my theater.

  18. I have seen a device on Ancient egyptian carvings, i think they used
    Crystal coils to create a sort of wireless power..

  19. You have a electricity auro all around your body, calcite is crystal, maybe you could use electricity, a ground wire connected to all crystal and the second wire you use to touch a metal lining around rim of crystal

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