Glass-ical Musick: Dennis James highlights an unusual instrument on the Nunda program | Lifestyles

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NUNDA – Musician and historian Dennis James revisits the history of glass music during a presentation at Nunda’s Trinity Church, 30 East St., at 2:30 p.m. on April 3.

“Glass-ical Musick” has been prepared for a general audience with a carefully balanced content of music and historical information. The program is presented by the Nunda Historical Society. Admission is free, although donations are gratefully accepted. The place is handicapped accessible.

The illustrated musical lecture and demonstration will feature James playing a glass armonica, a recreation of the 18th century musical instrument invented by Ben Franklin.

The glass harmonica spins on a mechanized axis and is rubbed with water-moistened fingers to produce remarkably sonorous notes and chords, James says.

Franklin’s harmonica is considered the first truly American musical instrument.

The history of glass music dates back to at least 1492 when European musicians assembled sets of wine glasses, fitted with the water in the bowls, and produced a sound of almost ethereal quality by gently rubbing the edges with moistened fingertips.

Franklin invented his glass armonica after attending a 1761 recital with musical glasses,

Leopold Roellig, one of the instrument’s admirers, wrote in 1787: “The sensation produced by the armonica after its first appearance and the unanimous applause of all who heard it make it the instrument… satisfying and the most beautiful that mankind has ever known. .”

The armonica became the rage of the European musical community and enjoyed a vogue in the drawing rooms and concert halls of the Old World for around 50 years.

By 1800, the armonica had acquired an increasingly sinister reputation. His tones were notorious for making women faint, sending dogs into ecstatic convulsions, and apparently forcing many of his performers into early retirement with nervous disorders. In the middle of the 19th century, the instrument was banned in many European countries and fell into complete obscurity.

James, who has performed the glass harmonica on albums by singer Linda Ronstadt, is known as a devoted and imaginative enthusiast of music history and authentic performance practice. He tours internationally performing 18th century musical compositions written for the instrument by Mozart, Beethoven, Hasse, Reichardt, Roellig and others. A popular feature is the distribution of tuned cognac glasses to audience members who learn to play and then perform spontaneous music together in a harmonic chorus.

He has been a touring musician for over 50 years and was a lecturer at Rutgers University where he created a program in glass instruments.

James, who is also a renowned organist, has been making frequent appearances at Nunda – this is his ninth visit – since 2013. Past presentations have included the glass armonica, the theremin, other historical or unusual instruments and films mute, including accompaniment. to a silent film.

The upcoming program is made possible with funds from a Restart New York Mini-Grant, a State Council of the Arts grantmaking program designed to help resume arts programming during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grant funds are administered locally by the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts.

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