Music can please and communicate different emotions to people. But have you ever heard of a musical instrument being dangerous? If not, this is surely going to surprise you! “The Glass Armonica” by Benjamin Franklin is the World’s most dangerous musical instrument. The Music or tones produced by it were rumoured to make people physically and mentally ill.
The Glass Armonica was discovered in 1761. Inspired by the Music of Edward Delaval, Benjamin Franklin invented the Glass Armonica to produce hauntingly beautiful Music. Unlike the Music created by simple water-filled glasses, the Armonica can play complex chords and melodies. Music of the glass armonica soon became popular among US and Europe audiences.
Popular composers like Mozart and Beethoven also began writing Music for the instrument. But some disturbing events and rumours took place in the late 1700s. Both Armonica players and listeners became physically and mentally ill.
People complained about nervousness, cramps, dizziness, hysteria, melancholia and physical discomfort. Another tragic incident followed as a child died during a performance in Germany. Soon after, Germany banned the play of it.
The Armonica‘s frequency or pitch of Music falls in the range of 1- 4 kHz. Most believed that the ethereal music produced by the Armonica is causing the brain’s disorientation.
As the frequency increases, our brains have difficulty processing. Listeners cannot identify where the Music is coming from. Therefore, people often feel lost after listening to the music.
Some said that the illnesses were caused by lead poisoning. The Glass bowls and the paints used to colour the codes did contain lead. But there wasn’t much scientific evidence to support the assumption.
Benjamin’s discovery was extraordinary. He put together glass bowls, an iron rod, a wooden wheel and a foot pedal to create the masterpiece. The musicians touch the edges of the glass with their wet fingers as they rotate to produce various tones. Despite its rumoured dangers, The Glass Armonica, to this date, remains an intriguing musical device.