Brien Engel -- Glass Harp Music

Brien Engel -- Glass Harp Music

Brien Engel is part of an exciting new community helping to revive and promote the enchanting art of glass music. His glass harp is comprised of goblets and snifters of various sizes, which he plays by carefully rubbing their rims with moistened fingers. He taught himself to play his first set in 1993, built on a summer trip to Olympia, Wa. His current instrument features 50 glasses, and is one of the largest in the world. While the glasses are his main musical focus, Brien has studied guitar for most of his life, and in recent years has discovered a love of mbira music of Zimbabwe. He has also composed original musical scores for puppet shows, live theatre, and film documentaries.  

Whether played with simple melodies or complex and ethereal harmonies, glass music has an unmistakable sound. Brien’s extensive repertoire includes his own originals, popular songs, Jazz standards, and classical music, featuring historical compositions written for the glass armonica.


  PO Box 33, Pine Lake, GA 30072


(404) 633-9322

Glass Harp Music

Program description

During a Glass Harp Music assembly program, Brien performs music of different styles and periods, playing the glass harp. The program explores musical instruments made from everyday materials, the history of glass and water-tuned music, and related concepts of physics and sound. The program includes many participatory segments. Water tuning is demonstrated with water and rice bowls. Vibration is demonstrated using a goblet and a Ping-Pong ball, a string and ‘explorer-cam’ recreation of violin bow friction, and a collection of Tibetan singing bowls. Musical saw is also featured. Another segment of the program introduces Ben Franklin’s invention (and the first American musical instrument), the glass armonica. Questions and song requests are welcome towards the end of the assembly.

Booking / scheduling contact

Brien Engel

   (404) 633-9322

Program detail
Artistic discipline: Music
Cultural Origin: Multicultural
Program type: Day Trip, Out-of-School-Time, Professional Development, Residency, Virtual/Online Program, Workshop
Population served: Grade 1, Grade 10, Grade 11, Grade 12, Grade 2, Grade 3, Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 9, Kindergarten, Pre-K
Subject: Engineering, Math, Music, Science, Social Studies / History
Bilingual: No
Available dates:

Available year-round. Available for trips to Charlotte area when not touring in other regions, or performing locally (in Atlanta)

Available times:

No time restrictions; whenever best suits the school/ other venue.

Length of program: 50 minutes
Space / technical requirements:

Cafeteria stage, or in front of stage, Gym, or Media Center. Will need two rectangular tables, two chairs. Artist has complete sound system.


Available for all venues: recital stages, libraries, school cafeterias, gyms, senior centers, etc.

Fees / Ticketing:

Same day/school: $520.00 single performance, $780.00 for two, $950.00 for three, all travel and touring costs included. Discounts for block booking (three or more days in area)


NC Standard Course of Study:

Readiness Anchor Standard for Reading

R3 – Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text
(Glasses of different sizes with different frequencies interact to form melodies and harmony in a musical piece as it unfolds)

Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects

RST.6-8.3 – Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements,
or performing technical tasks. (Assess by apparent mass of a glass its general pitch, measure water needed to slow vibration, learn what kind of pressure is needed to create music on a glass by way of friction)

Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6–12

WHST.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation. (Using presented examples of home-engineered musical instruments)

NC Essential Standards:

From the Science Education, Physical Science 6-8 Standards:

6.P.1.1 – Explain the relationship among the rate of vibration, the medium through which vibrations travel, sound and hearing. (By clear demonstration of the spring-like nature of water glasses, as with strings or drum skins or any sound source, vibrating to generate sound waves that reach the ear)

7.P.1.2 – Explain the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces acting on an object (including friction, gravity and magnets). (Via clear object lessons in the catch-release quality of friction, in this case applied as a balanced force to create a standing wave in the glass)

From the Arts Education, Music K-8 Standards:

K.ML.3, 1.ML.3, 2.ML.3 (etc) – Create music using a variety of sound and notational sources. (Showing that glasses, handsaws, bottles, and other utilitarian items can also be musical instruments).

From the Social Studies, World History Standards:

WH.2.9 – Evaluate the achievements of ancient civilizations in terms of their enduring cultural impact. (Civilizations throughout history make use of available resources found immediately in nature or with utilitarian items to make music. Glass and glassware is a very significant contribution from ancient societies. Civilizations take and re-invent things from each other, e.g. water-tuned earthen bowls in India set the stage for European water-tuned glassware.)


Conducts educational programming for 2 or more years: Yes
Performs criminal background checks on staff with youth contact: Yes
Three letters of recommendation / references available: Yes
Provides study guides for teachers and or students: Yes
Connects to State and or Common Core Curriculum Standards: Yes
Provides tools to assess student learning (workshops and residencies): Yes
Provides scholarship and reduced fees: Yes
Conducts ongoing assessments of program quality: Yes