History of Crystal Music Glasses
Very little is known about the early beginnings of the use of goblets, bowls and glasses as musical glasses, but history shows that composers Mozart and Gluck both explored glass items as instruments. Benjamin Franklin invented a glass harmonica (armonica), this instrument was created with a series of tuned bowls mounted on a single spindle, the spindle was mounted on the horizontal and rotated by a treadle connected by belt to a pulley on the spindle—much like a sewing machine. It was played by touching rotating the bowls with water moistened fingertips. After these experiments with musical glass, composers Berloiz and Wagner concluded that musical glass could not be used for orchestral or operatic purposes. All of the glass sets of that era required water to fine-tune the instruments and the tone quality just was not present.
The next known experiment with glass was Bruce Tweedy's great-grandfather, Odin Wold. Odin was born in Norway in 1848. During his teenage years he started to explore glass music with his brother Paul. Sadly, Paul died in a boating accident just before Odin immigrated to America in 1866. Odin continued pursing his interest in musical glasses in America. In 1870, Odin married and moved to Minnesota taking a job with the Minneapolis Police and Fire department. Odin spent the better part of 20 years testing and trying tens of thousands of glasses before collecting the selection of finely tuned glasses with the correct notes for his instrument. He found the glasses by visiting local bars and restaurants—many of these locations would call him when they received new shipments of glasses. Odin also bought glasses from Belgium, Germany, Austria and France. His hard work and tireless searching paid off—Odin succeeded in completing his set of musical crystal glasses. There were 52 glasses in the set, all perfectly tuned in pitch, tone and quality. In March of 1890, Odin and his son, Charles, played the glasses at Odin's niece's wedding. The first song played on the glasses was Home Sweet Home.
Odin Wold's first set.
Odin Wold went on to play the musical glasses in the Minnesota symphony for 2 years, and also played them in Mr. Phails' Art Society Orchestra for 27 years. Odin's last performance was on May 21st, 1930—when Odin could no longer hear his beautiful music. But by this time Odin's son, Charles, has become quite famous for his ability to play complicated and complex orchestral music on the glass.
Odin Wold's second set built for his son Charles.
Charles Wold began his career with his father at the age of ten. In the early 1900's he toured the eastern United States performing with his crystal music glasses and during his touring played for both President McKinley and President Taft. In 1922, Charles brought the music of the crystal glasses to radio with a daily broadcast with WOR radio. Sadly, the broadcasts ended with Charles' death in 1931.
From 1931 until 1999 the glasses seemed to disappear into obscurity as they passed down through the generations—landing finally in the hands of Odin's great-grandson Bruce Tweedy. Bruce was first introduced to the glass music in 1962, but it wasn't until 1989 that Bruce inherited his grandfather's set. Bruce then spent years cleaning and restoring the set—he individually repaired almost every glass in the set either by adjusting the mounts or deep cleaning the glass itself. In 1999 Bruce played the crystal glasses to the public for the first time in 68 years.
Since 1999, Bruce Tweedy and his wife, Sandra, have restored Odin Wold's original set and created two more complete crystal music glass sets. The two newer sets sound sharper and are twice as loud as the original set, but Bruce comments: "Charles' set still remains smother and rings more pure."
Sandy's new set first played music on February 7, 2005.