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DENNIS JAMES, ARMONICA

Dennis James Dennis James' career in music began in Philadelphia, PA in 1964 when his first performance was broadcast by local television, and has extended now into the Finger Lakes region of New York State following his retirement from teaching glass music at Rutgers University. Based in Corning, NY by association with CMoG, the Corning Museum of Glass, he maintains an active schedule of international performances, recording, instrument preservation and guest educational activities plus specialized research. Under his rubric ‘Crystal City Music’ James researches, transcribes, arranges and composes new music for his exotic historical music instruments collection while embracing stylistic changes and setting new cultural trends. His career focuses on working with major cultural institutions worldwide to entice specialist enthusiasts and dedicated amateurs into serious music studies.



Dennis James has been described as the best glass armonica player in the world. In earlier times, listeners have been so intrigued by the alluring sound of the glass that many actually ascribed magical powers to the instruments. The mystical tones were reputed to make women faint, send dogs into ecstatic convulsions, and even bring the dead back to life. Illness and even death for children and deep hypnotic states were said to occur. The careers of many who frequently performed upon glass ended mysteriously; their nerves shattered, most of them were said to have gone mad. At one point, police in some towns banned the public playing of glass instruments and, by the mid-19th century, most European countries had banned them entirely. Glass instruments soon became historical curiosities in realm of defunct musical instruments.

The beauty and enchantment of glass music is now being revived internationally by Dennis James. Currently showing no signs of the mysterious glass illnesses, James performs nearly forgotten original compositions for the exotic devices by Mozart, Beethoven, Reichardt and many others plus compositions transcribed by James from other musical sources. An ardent and imaginative devotee of music history, Dennis‘s programs are a delight for children and fascinating to adults. His bewitching glass music presentations are novel and entertaining explorations into the unique world of the 'vitreous vibrations.'



A dedicated and imaginative devotee of music history and authentic performance practices, in addition to the glass armonica, James performs “Glass-ical Musick” using water-tuned brandy snifters. This transparent music presentation provides a witty survey of the beginnings of music made with wine glasses, focusing on the developments from 15th to the 18th c. Dennis’ presentation has been prepared for a general audience with a carefully balanced content of music, scientific, cultural and historical information, and includes audience-participation. He distributes water-tuned brandy snifters to the audience members, instructs how to play and then leads them in performing spontaneous music all together forming a harmonic choir.



The Seraphim is a descriptive term used in a nineteenth century English treatise by J. E. Franklin to describe a manufactured set of tuned musical glasses individually mounted on a table. Dennis James assembled his first 35-note fully chromatic modern version in 1986 utilizing perfectly-tuned brandy snifters acquired after auditioning several thousand Mexican-made candidates at import glass outlets throughout the country. He plans to continue expanding its range and will rejoice when finding F#5 and G#5.

What are people saying about Dennis James?

"As the audience's enthusiastic response showed, your performance was the hit of the season, both musically and educationally. I greatly appreciate your effort in creating such lovely instruments and assure you that you've made many new friends for Glass-ical Musick." - Laurence Libin, Dept. of Music Instruments, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NYC)

"What an amazing presentation-history, music, comedy, audience participation, etc. He had a standing room only crowd spellbound for over an hour!" - Becky Kaegebein, Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio)

"That was the best presentation, not just the music but of anything I have ever attended. The combination of historical information about the instruments with beautiful music performances was superb." - Dale Chihuly, glass artist at Kent State G.A.S. presentation

“Your presentation is absolutely delightful: both music and history, breathtaking music and history illustrated -- all the more meaningful. The word for your presentation is Astonishing.” - Katherine Ashe, Author, White Haven (Pennsylvania)

"When I heard Dennis James’ Glass-ical Musick performance at Old St. Mary's in San Francisco last year with the audience participation using the wet glasses, tears ran down my face at the ethereal sound in that particular environment. It was as close as I can imagine to the voices of the angelic choir. . . a deeply moving musical experience that will be forever etched in my soul.” - Bob Ribelin, Castro Valley (California)

"Thank you for your WONDERFUL presentation here at the Opera House. I am hearing so many positive comments from those who were here. Several individuals actually have commented that it was the 'best event they have ever attended here!' Dan, Marsha and I all personally enjoyed your program as well. Since we attend all of the events here, it's a little harder for us to get excited over any single show. But in the case of your presentation ('Glass-ical Musick'- a Musica Curiosa informance), it was interesting, engrossing, humorous and thoroughly enjoyable!! We enjoyed every minute! On top of that, you are so pleasant and easy to work with . . . not all artists are like that, you know!" - Rick A. Davis, Executive Director of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House in western NY.
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