The recording 'Slow Swells' documents the ethereal sound of the armonica: an antiquated acoustic instrument that consists of a series of tuned glass bowls attached to a spindle. It was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761, and is played by touching the rims of the rotating glasses with moistened fingers.
Reflecting on the character of sound produced by the instrument, Franklin remarked that its "plaintive" tones could be "swelled or softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressures of the finger, and continued to any length" (Franklin, 1819, 147). His wife Deborah Read Franklin apparently mistook the sound of the armonica for the music of angels (Franklin, 1857, 30).
'Slow Swells' results from a series of improvisations Dawn played on the armonica in February 2012. The recording was made at Benjamin Franklin House in Craven Street, London where the instrument was originally invented. It followed an invitation from Aleks Kolkowski to contribute to Phonographies, a growing archive of contemporary wax cylinder recordings.
Many thanks to Sally James at Benjamin Franklin House for facilitating the recording.