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    International Harmonies: Common and Curious Instruments

    The music of every culture includes a vast amount of unique sounds. The particular tones and chords within each style are achieved by implementing equally as unique instruments. Percussion, strings, woodwinds, and horns are only among the general classifications of instruments. As new digital and improvised inventions emerge, the scope of what is possible seems endless. The following are a few common and/or curious music tools found throughout the world:

    Glass Armonica


    The Glass Armonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin after he attended a concert where two performers employed wine glasses as their main mode of music making. The two men filled the glasses with water and spread them out over a large table; Franklin thought their methods to be extremely inefficient. One night, burning the midnight oil, the inventor put his famous mind to use and pondered ways to make the process more streamline. His wife was woken early that morning only to be deceived that she had died and gone to heaven. Apparently the haunting resonance that defines the Glass Armonica made her think that she was ascending into the great beyond.

    The following years proved to be a popular time for the fascinating contraption that Franklin invented. He traveled with it, eventually crossing paths with Mozart and Beethoven who were among the first to write original scores for the new medium.

    Learn more about Franklin’s legacy after booking your car rental in Philadelphia.



    The historical origins of the sitar are unknown and commonly under speculation. It was in the Middle Ages when the implement was first mentioned in text. Soon spreading to music communities throughout the East and Middle East, it began to gain traction as a main stream medium. The extremely unique sound of the sitar wasn’t known in the West until the 20th century. Pandit Ravi Shankar was among the first to introduce the sitar to the American public. The Beatles furthered its popularity through songs such as With or Without You. Today, the sitar is still a popular instrument in Asia, Europe, and America.



    Most people have never heard of the contrabass-flute. It is one of the scarcest members of the flute family. As with a lot of classical instruments, the flute comes in a number of different sizes to produce notes in higher or lower octaves. Performing in different frequencies and tones, each member of the family provides a unique sound. Although it can be played in the classical sense, it is often used to beat-box or to create other contemporary rhythms and sounds.

    Conga (formally, Tumbadora)


    Some of the most famous moments for the conga drum were when Desi Arnaz performed Babaloo on the set of I Love Lucy (as seen above). The conga is traditionally a Cuban instrument, but its roots are in Central Africa, where it was once constructed by stretching hide over a hallow log. Drumming traditions were brought to Cuba during the era of slave trade. Cuban settlers then picked up the method of drum making as communities integrated. The conga drum has evolved to define the rumba as well as provide a key element in salsa, meringue, and even reggae music.

    Talk Box


    The talk box is not so much an instrument itself as it is to be used in conjunction with other instruments, like the guitar or keyboard. By attaching a long tube to a speaker, performers are able to direct the sound of their instrument in to their oral cavities where they bend the different tones by moving their mouths. Made popular by the legendary music of Peter Frampton, the device took-off and eventually made it into disco, rap, and hip hop communities throughout North America. Through its very unconventional and slightly awkward, the Talk Box plays a major role in the history of popular music.

    Sea Organ


    The Sea Organ is a very fascinating unmanned instrument that is controlled by the ebb and flow of the Adriatic Sea. Located in Zadar, Croatia, the Sea Organ is the only one of its kind. It was an experimental effort with some surprising results. The inventors installed tubes that stretch from the risers between a set of marble stairs to the water below. As tides change, the depth of the water does as well. It is through this mechanism that air is forced upward or downward to create the haunting, yet harmonious fluting which characterizes the Sea Organ.

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