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 History of
the Armonica

 Ben Franklin
the Musician

Cecilia Brauer


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About Ben Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was a fine amateur musician who was very knowledgeable in the history, theory, and harmony of music. He studied music as a Science, and practised it as an Art. It is said that he could play violin, cello, harp, and guitar. When Franklin drew up plans for his home in Philadelphia, he specified a particular room for music and entertainment. It was on the third floor, painted blue, and became know as the Blue Room. It housed his musical instruments which included the Armonica, a viola da Gamba, a Welsh harp, a harpsichord and a set of tuned bells to help him tune his harpsichord which he said "when properly tuned, it's music exceeds what can be produced by common instruments, but (without the bells) too useless for me."

He loved to play duets with his daughter, Sally, she on the harpsichord and he on his "beloved Armonica." Of all the things Franklin accomplished, the Armonica gave him his greatest personal joy. Franklin loved to play Scottish songs as he felt their beauty lay in their simplicity.

Franklin loved to sing and often joined friends in evenings of song. He felt singing was a melodious way of speaking. He wrote lyrics to many songs which included "My Plain Country Joan", a song that extolled the virtues of his wife, Deborah.

Franklin attended many concerts in his lifetime, many in America but more in Europe where he spent over 28 years as Colonial representative in England and then in France as Ambassador.  In fact, while in England in 1759, he attended the last concert of The Messiah conducted by Handel just eight days before the death of the composer. In his diary, Franklin wrote that he saw "the sublime old man, one of the sturdiest characters of modern times, led to the organ for the last time to conduct one of his works."

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