Click below to learn more about Mayling and her armonica
Mayling playing her armonica!
age 33, has dedicated her life to playing this instrument perfected by Benjamin Franklin in 1761.
Mozart and Beethoven who composed for it, popularized the instrument. The
players fell ill due to the lead content of the bowls.
After seeing a woman play a glass armonica in Boston, Garcia bought one and learned to play by telephone from the maker, whom she had never met. She is one of only twelve people in the world to play the instrument. Garcia lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is creating her first compact disc. "My life is full and my dreams are big", says Garcia.
Triunfadores de costa a costa" People Magazine en Espa�ol. vol. 2 no. 2, p. 53 March 1999.
This article ran in many newspapers nationwide during the last weeks of February 2001. (AP Photos by Roberto E. Rosales.)
(Click images for a larger view)
Armonica use may have led to Beethoven's deathBy: RICHARD BENKE
CORRALES, N.M. -- A glass instrument that produces the hypnotic music of wet crystal is sounding a clarion call for debate over the lead poisoning of Beethoven.
The glass armonica, invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, was demonstrated to Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when Franklin visited France during the American Revolution. Both composers then wrote music for the instrument, which created an international sensation--and superstition.
The instrument consists of blown crystal bowls, in graduated sizes, arrayed along a spindle that rotates while the player
places moistened fingers on them. In the early history of the instrument, lead glass stemware was
sometimes used instead
of crystal, and leaded paint was applied to some of the bowls to differentiate those notes.
A 582-strand Beethoven hair sample, taken just after his death at age 56 in 1827, was purchased at auction for $7,300 in
1994 by Ira Brilliant, founder of the Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, and Alfredo Guevara, a
surgeon from Nogales, Ariz.
Benke, Richard. "Armonica use may have led to Beethoven's death." AP Wire 25 Feb. 2001, natl. ed
In December 1998, the editors of Hispanic Business Magazine selected a number of Hispanic-owned businesses that "possess a remarkable business concept, marketing niche, organizational approach, or success story" as winners of the 1998 Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards. Mayling was selected as one of these winners.
Photo by Mike Grady
Mayling Garcia bills herself as the only Latina who plays the glass
armonica - a reasonable claim given that only 100 such instruments exist
in the world. Invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, the glass armonica
works on the idea that when a wet finger rubs the rim of a wineglass, it
produces a pure note. Unfortunately, Mr. Franklin built his models with
lead crystal, and the players developed lead poisoning.
In 1940, a German scientist resurrected the idea, incorporating gold instead of lead. Ms Garcia purchased a lead-free instrument in 1993, learned to play via telephone with the German scientist, and launched her musical career under her Albuquerque-based company Mayling Garcia Glass Armonica Performer.
|In addition to performing at schools and private functions, she has played three gigs on the Univision variety show "Sabado Gigante." Producers have contacted her about playing "The Star Spangled Banner" at next month's Superbowl.|
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A monthly feature of New Mexico Magazine is called "Asi Es Nuevo Mexico" "This is New Mexico" which spotlights exceptional New Mexican people and organizations. Mayling was featured in the February 1997 edition.
- Jim Bowman
An Albuquerque musician is doing her part to erase a blotch on the otherwise sterling record of American statesman and inventor extraordinaire, Ben Franklin.
Mayling Garcia, at 31, has become a living link to Franklin, the youngest person in the world and only Hispanic to master his illfated instrument, the glass armonica.
Franklin introduced the glass armonica - a strange cross between a harpsichord and a xylophone - in 1761. Concertgoers heralded ani invention they thought might rival the lighning rod , bifocals, and the Franklin stove in importance. Even the era's musical titans, Beethoven and Mozart, wrote compositions specifically for the instrument.
But by 1830, the last of Franklin's glass armonicas had been banished to dank storage rooms in museums and the vaults of wealthy families. The public hadn't grown tired of the sweet, high-pitched melodies produced by the armonica. But no one wanted to touch the instruments because those who did so often went stark-raving mad.
Some critics accused Franklin of fomenting witchcraft. Others conjectured that the glass armonica's piercing sounds caused players to lose their sanity.
Only in recent years has the mystery been solved. Franklin used leaded crystal in manufacturing the 45 glass bowls that form the core of the instrument. Since it's played by physically rubbing the rims of the bowls, musicians of the era fell victim to lead poisoning, absorbed directly through their fingertips and into their bloodstreams.
Garcia faces no such risk. She's playing a new, lead-free model of the glass armonica, developed by a German glass blower in the 1980s. When she first heard the strange instrument played during a concert in Harvard Square, Garcia knew she had to try her own hand at it. But because she had little formal musical training, she was reluctant to invest the several thousand dollars required to purchase a glass armonica.
After years of procrastinating, Garcia took the plunge, buying an instrument and resolved to teach herself to play "by trial and error, if need be". Eventually, she succeeded, though she admits tying up her family's phone line dialing an 800 toll-free number set up by the manufacturer to seek assistance.
Garcia now gives frequent public concerts, once playing the National Anthem on the glass armonica to open an Albuquerque Dukes baseball game. Her repertoire includes classical favorites, as well as children's songs, Christmas carols and traditional Hispanic folk tunes.
"My dad used to ask, 'Why don't you get a real job?,'" she says. "Now he's proud of what I have accomplished."
"Albuquerque musician in touch with history" Jim Bowman, New Mexico Magazine. vol. 75 no. 2, p. 16 February 1997. Photos by Mike Grady
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In the June 1997 edition of The Santa Fean Magazine, Mayling was featured in their regular section entitled "Tales of the 'City Different' ".
-- Perrin Patterson
Witchcraft, lead-poisoning and mystery ... the armonica has a story to tell and Albuquerque-based performer Mayling Garcia intends to narrate. Inspired by water-filled musical glasses, Benjamin Franklin constructed the odd-looking instrument in 1761. Comprised of concentric glass bowls lined horizontally along a revolving rod and played with moistened finger tips, the otherworldly sounding, high-pitched instrument enjoyed global popularity - Mozart even composed a quintet for it.
The popularity ended, however, when people began to notice certain deranging effects it seemed to have on it's players. Rumors of witchcraft spread. Franklin's invention was considered his greatest failure and, "by 8130, playing the instrument in public had been banned. If you played the armonica at all, you were considered evil," says Garcia. However, she has a more logical explanation for the strange behavior attributed to glass armonica musicians; lead-poisoning. The glass bowls of the armonica were made of lead crystal, and the toxin, Garcia says, seeped through finger pores and poisoned the players.
Now, using bowls hand-blown from lead-free crystal, Garcia wants to help us rediscover this unusual instrument.. One of only six musicians in the world who play the armonica publicly, Garcia has her work cut out for her. You can often her find her carefully lugging the thirty-pound instrument to private parties and children's events across New Mexico. Call Mayling Garcia for a chance to hear this misunderstood melody-maker; she has armonica, will travel.
"Music of the Hemispheres" Perrin Patterson, The Santa Fean Magazine. vol. 25 no. 5, p. 11 June 1997.
Sabado Gigante is a Spanish language variety show seen on television every Saturday night by 120 million viewers in 52 countries world-wide. Mayling has appeared on the show 5 times.
The pictures below, featuring Mayling with host Don Francisco, are from the 1998 Christmas Special.
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Mayling performed on
"America's Got Talent" nationwide on NBC during it's first
season. She was one of five unique musicians vying for a chance
to win a slot in the finals. Unfortunately, Mayling was not
selected to move forward in the contest.
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Mayling Garcia can be contacted at the number and address above
or by e-mail at
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