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The Healing Powers of the Glass Armonica

See also "What's Different about the Sound of Singing Bowls?"

From the very beginning of its history, people realized that the glass armonica had healing properties unlike that of any other musical instrument.

Benjamin Franklin himself, the inventor of the glass armonica, used his invention to heal the "melancholia" of Princess Izabella Czartoryska of Poland.

Here is her own account, written in 1772:

"I was ill, in a state of melancholia, and writing my testament and farewell letters. Wishing to distract me, my husband explained to me who Franklin was and to what he owed his fame… Franklin had a noble face with an expression of engaging kindness. Surprised by my immobility, he took my hands and gazed at me saying: pauvre jeune femme ["poor young lady']. He then opened an armonica, sat down and played long. The music made a strong impression on me and tears began flowing from my eyes. Then Franklin sat by my side and looking with compassion said, "Madam, you are cured." Indeed in that moment I was cured of my melancholia. Franklin offered to teach me how to play the armonica - I accepted without hesitation, hence he gave me twelve lessons.1

Dr. Franz Mesmer, famous for 'mesmerizing' his patients, also used the Armonica in his treatments. Here's an account by a Dr. Le Roux sometime between 1778 and 1779 about the reactions of an army surgeon [and thus presumably a hard-headed fellow] that he had taken to Mesmer's clinic for treatment of gout:

"After several turns around the room, Mr. Mesmer unbuttoned the patient's shirt and, moving back somewhat, placed his finger against the part affected. My friend felt a tickling pain. Mr. Mesmer then moved his finger perpendicularly across his abdomen and chest, and the pain followed the finger exactly. He then asked the patient to extend his index finger and pointed his own finger toward it at a distance of three or four steps, whereupon my friend felt an electric tingling at the tip of his finger, which penetrated the whole finger toward the palm. Mr. Mesmer then seated him near the harmonica; he had hardly begun to play when my friend was affected emotionally, trembled, lost his breath, changed color, and felt pulled toward the floor.2

In my own experience, countless listeners have told me that the armonica had a positive physical impact in their bodies, unlike any other musical instrument.


1 translated in Lipowski, Z. J. (1984), Benjamin Franklin as a psychotherapist: A forerunner of brief psychotherapy. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 27, 361-366. p.362

2 Pattie, F.A. (1994). Mesmer and Animal Magnetism, pg. 73