Dennis B. Kottler, MD
Westlake Village, CA
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(Note: This topic does relate to psychiatry but you will have to read--or scroll?--to the bottom of the page to see the tie-in.)
Singing Wine Glasses
A common amusement at the dinner
table is "singing wine glasses." A rather delicate wine
glass is grasped firmly at the base while a wetted finger (water works well) is
carefully rotated around the rim of the glass. After some practice at
getting the right pressure and speed of rotation, the glass begins to
For the adventuresome, try filling several wine glasses with different levels of water. More water in the glass increases the pitch of the sound and less water decreases the pitch, assuming the glasses are all the same.
Enter Ben Franklin
While visiting Paris in the 18th Century, Benjamin Franklin came upon the curiosity of "singing glass." With customary zeal, he perfected the glass harmonica creating a mechanical contrivance consisting of a series of stem-less glasses skewered on a rod, the whole spit being rotated by a foot treadle. Over the years, many composers have dabbled in musical compositions for the glass harmonica.
Franz Anton Mesmer, an early hypnotist, hence "mesmerism," reportedly used the glass harmonica to induce an hypnotic trance. This was back in the late 18th Century. Unfortunately, the use of the glass harmonica, in this context, had some unpredicted adverse effects. Apparently, some individuals were driven "mad." The glass harmonica fell into disrepute. In 1982, it was "re-invented" by Finkenbeiner who further perfected the instrument, using pure quartz as opposed to leaded glass for the glass bowls.
*(Note: This technique of rubbing a wine glass with a wet finger was apparently first introduced in 1743 by the Irishman, Richard Puckeridge.)
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