Playing in the street

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Listening to street musicians is one of the pleasures of an evening walk in Old Town Alexandria. Just down the street from a guitar duo was this man playing jazz with his partner on flute. A cellist on the waterfront was playing Saint-Saens’ Le Cygne as I walked by. And a short distance away, was the musician pictured below.

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He is playing what he calls a glass harp. It’s more commonly known as a glass armonica (or harmonica). Filling containers to varying degrees with water and banging them with sticks to create a percussion instrument is an ancient technique. Rubbing the rim of a glass with a moistened finger to make a sound was first noted by Galileo Galilei and according to an article on the history of the glass armonica, in 1743, an Irish musician thought to use the technique to make music. Beethoven, Mozart, and others composed for the instrument.

Hear Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg play Bach unaccompanied, on the glass armonica and two more (accompanied) examples by other performers: The Ash Grove (a Celtic melody that my mother used to sing to me in Welsh when I was a little girl) and Greensleeves.

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8 Responses to Playing in the street

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Wow – this was phenomenal, and many thanks for all those great musical links! I frankly never knew that playing music with crystal glasses was called playing the “glass harmonica.” I wrote “crystal” glasses, because I think it works only with very high quality glass, right?

  2. Passante says:

    Yes, I think the quality of the glass affects the purity of the tone. When I was about five, my father taught me to make different notes this way with some very delicate Victorian champagne glasses. At the time, I thought it was essential for the liquid to be champagne!

  3. Elisabeth says:

    Did the champagne have to be Dom Perignon? :o)

  4. Anne says:

    wow that’s amazing…I think I also “practiced” something like that when i was small…but can’t remember if it worked or if I ended up breaking all of the glasses 🙂

  5. Dan Ward says:

    Ah, street musicians – one of the perks of urban living I miss now that I’m in rural NY.

    The bucket drummers were some of my favorites (and my kid’s favorites) every time we’d go to the museums along the Mall…

  6. photo-effe says:

    great portait of musicians

  7. Passante says:

    Thank you all—and to my new visitors: thank you for stopping by.

  8. Rajesh Dangi says:

    wow, like the way you capture the personalities and moods…

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