The glass harmonica is one of the earliest ambient tools, long predating the arrival of domestic electricity, let alone of electronic music. The harmonica, generally a wine glass filled with a liquid, can be pitched according to how much liquid is in it. But pitch aside, the harmonica’s powers are twofold. First, there is the ability to play it at length, the finger making its way around the circumference of the class; with two harmonicas, one can simulate an endless note. Second, there is the wavering quality of its sound. The music emitted by a glass harmonica comprises a paradoxical noise, one that has the sinuous manner of liquid yet often seems shot through with bright, sharp overtones. James Fahy, who records as Ambienteer, recently ventured through a wine glass darkly and posted the results of his trip. Titled “Crimson,” the lengthy piece (just under 18 minutes) expands the glass harmonica’s vocabulary by treating it with digital effects (MP3), resulting in an aural field of texture and tone.
Writes Fahy of his venture:
I made this dark and brooding piece in the early hours. It’s made from just a few samples of me playing with a glass of red wine. Using my hands to make it sing, I then manipulated it in Ableton Live, using only its internal effects. To experience the intended result, this track needs headphones and a dark silent space in which you can relax undisturbed. As I let my mind drift, I started to hear additional frequencies, fleeting voices, but I couldn’t be sure if they were real or imagined. I hope you get something from it? It won’t be for everyone. I’ve also made a stretch version of this, but at 120 mins in length, I’ve yet to decide if I’ll post it.