Mark Twain Library Glass-ical Musick

by Romy Weinberg, Mark Twain Library

The Allen and Helen Hermes Arts Series will present Dennis James and “Glass-ical Musick,” an exploration of the history of glass music on January 7, 2018, at 3:00 the Mark Twain Library in Redding, CT. A reception will follow the performance.

James will present his authentic recreation of the glass armonica—invented by Benjamin Franklin around 1761—plus a concert set of pre-tuned musical glasses called the Seraphim.

Franklin invented his armonica after attending a concert of musical glasses.  He wrote in his diary that he was “charmed by the sweetness of its tones,” and his mechanized improvements resulted in what is now considered to be the first truly American musical instrument.

James plays his own recreation of the Franklin armonica design incorporating crystal glass bowls made in Frauenau, Germany.  Mounted on a motor-turned spindle and rubbed with his water moistened fingers, the armonica glass bowls produce notes and chords of remarkable sound.

James developed an interest in glass music in the late 1960’s when he heard recordings of the German glass music virtuoso Bruno Hoffmann.  In 1983 he organized the First International Glass Music Festival, bringing performers and enthusiasts of glass music from around the world together for the first time.

As one recent reviewer wrote, “James has to be heard to be believed. His way with the instrument is virtually magical . . . it glitters, it soothes, it seduces.”

The beauty and mystery of glass armonica music is being revived internationally, aided by James’s performances. A dedicated devotee of music history and authentic performance practice, James plays his armonica with enchanting sensitivity and now tours internationally, performing eighteenth century musical compositions for the device by Mozart, Beethoven, Hasse, Reichardt, Roellig, and many others.

A popular feature of James’s performance is the distribution of tuned brandy snifters to the members of the audience, who are instructed how to play and then perform spontaneous music together in a harmonic choir.

Dennis James has maintained an active international career in music since 1967.  He is a graduate of Indiana University with a Masters degree in organ performance.  James has performed recitals and with ensembles throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.  His recording career ranges from an all-glass major release on the Sony-Classical label (Cristal: Three Hundred Years of Glass Music) to appearances on Linda Ronstadt’s latest popular CD’s (on Epic) plus various European label solo and ensemble classical CD releases (by Naxos, ADDA, Syrinx, Hyperion and Ricercar).

For additional information about the Hermes Art Series or to register for this program, visit or call the library (203) 938-2545 for information.