Benjamin Franklin and History's Most Dangerous Musical Instrument

In 1761, Benjamin Franklin attended a London concert and heard a musician play a set of water-tuned wine glasses. A mellow tone washed over the hall, leaving Franklin enchanted—and a little dismayed. The instrument sounded beautiful but looked unwieldy. One wrong move and all the glasses would topple. Inspired to improve the design, Franklin invented an alternative: a rod of rotating glass bowls called the "glass armonica." The instrument would sweep Europe by storm; Mozart even composed music for it.

Then it started killing people.

That's what doctors said, anyway. Decades earlier, anatomists had discovered how auditory nerves worked, and they began warning that too much music—like too much coffee or tea—could affect the nerves, causing headaches, fainting spells, and other medical problems.

These fears weren't totally new. Centuries earlier, Plato suggested banning certain musical modes, arguing that "novel fashions in music … [were] endangering the whole fabric of society." The Roman rhetorician Quintilian once argued that the timbre of some instruments could "emasculate the soul of all its vigor," driving men mad. By the arrival of the 19th century, wonky science helped this musical fear-mongering go mainstream—music was blamed for hysteria, premature menstruation, homosexuality, and even death. (In 1837, the controversial Penny Satirist magazine would report that a 28-year-old woman had died from listening to too much music.)

During this burgeoning period of anti-music mania, no instrument would be feared as much as Franklin's armonica. Critics said it overstimulated the brain; performers blamed it for dizziness, hallucinations, and palsy. In 1799, doctor Anthony Willich argued that the instrument deserved to be condemned, saying it caused "a great degree of nervous weakness." In 1808, people attributed the death of armonica virtuoso Marianne Kirchgessner to the instrument's eerie tones. Some psychiatrists went so far to say it drove listeners to suicide.

To say the least, the assault was a PR nightmare. Within decades, the feared instrument was relegated to the great big concert hall in the sky.

Spotify Is Giving Premium Customers Free Hulu

iStock.com/stockcam
iStock.com/stockcam

It's hard to keep track of all the streaming services available today, but paying for two of them just got a lot easier. As The Verge reports, a free Hulu plan now comes with a Spotify Premium subscription.

Spotify Premium costs $10 a month, and it includes unlimited ad-free access to the 35 million-plus songs in the service's library, as well as the ability to save music and play it offline. Beginning today, March 12, you can bundle Spotify Premium with Hulu's basic ad-supported plan for $10 a month, which means if you were already paying for Spotify, you're basically getting Hulu for free. Without the deal, Hulu's cheapest plan normally costs $6 a month to stream unlimited shows and movies with ad breaks.

If you're already subscribed to Spotify Premium, you can add Hulu to the same bill from the Your Services page on Spotify. New members can sign up for both plans at once by visiting Spotify.com/hulu and entering their payment information. The promotion is not open to users on a Spotify Premium family account.

The special offer is only available until June 10, 2019, or "while supplies last," according to Spotify. After signing up, you can take your shiny new subscription for a spin with a binge-watching session. Here are some of the best shows and movies to stream.

[h/t The Verge]

This Colorful Art Poster Chronicles the History of the Beatles

Dorothy
Dorothy

As far as music history—or history in general—is concerned, The Beatles are one of the most influential musical groups ever assembled. The venerable English rock band may have had its heyday in the 1960s, but the impact John, Paul, George, and Ringo have had on generations of fans and musicians can't possibly be overstated. As music journalist Chuck Klosterman once wrote about the accuracy of rating bands, "The Beatles are generally seen as the single most important rock band of all time, because they wrote all the best songs. Since both of these facts are true, the Beatles are rated properly."

But simply appreciating the Fab Four's archive aurally doesn't do the band enough justice. Thankfully this poster from UK-based design shop Dorothy Studios has the visuals covered. With an appropriately diverse color palette, "The Colour of The Beatles—Special Edition" features 66 color-inspired references to many of the songs in the legendary group's discography, including "Here Comes the Sun" and "Blackbird."


Dorothy

However, the poster doesn't focus exclusively on The Beatles's songs; it also includes their albums (like The White Album), their favorite hangouts (like The Cavern Club and The Casbah Coffee Club), and even their Apple record label. And, of course, kaleidoscopic songs like "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," and "Norwegian Wood" are covered.

Phil Skegg, a designer at Dorothy, says the genesis of the poster came a few years ago when the team was looking at standard paint swatch colors, like Canary Yellow. "We thought it'd be great if they had a range named after songs like 'Yellow Submarine' or 'Sun King'," Skegg tells Mental Floss. "It then just developed from there, taking in songs, albums lyrics, and any other sources we could find."


Dorothy

The poster, which sells for about $38, is also just one of several Beatles-inspired posters from Dorothy; they also offer zoo-themed character portraits and this pair of "Liverpool Legends" road sign prints. And they say you can't buy me love.

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