It's glassware! It's an instrument! It's both!

ed stander

Stand back -- he's a professional.

By Jessica Pasko

Ed Stander plays the glasses. That is, he plays wine glasses and brandy snifters as a musical instrument. Really.

The Delmar resident internationally renowned for it -- he's played the glasses all over the world (including the Great Wall of China). You might have also seen him performing at this year's First Night celebration in Saratoga.

ed stander playing the glassesStander performs as part of duo called Noisy Science along with juggler/musician Karl Saliter. He also performs on his own throughout the country and at musical festivals around the world. And when he's not doing that, he's a professor of astronomy, geology, and environmental science at SUNY Cobleskill.

So how does one play a set of glasses? Well, have you ever wet your finger and rubbed the rim of a wine glass to produce that high-pitched sound? Playing the glasses is basically like that -- except Ed's able to play entire songs using a set of 12 glasses (6 wine glasses and 6 brandy snifters) attached to plastic boards. (He also has a set of 64 he plays, too.) Changing the level of water in each glass produces a different pitch. He uses a turkey baster to fill the glasses to their proper level and "tune" the instrument. His repertoire typically includes 30-40 songs but he also take requests.

The concept was more or less "invented" in the 1720s (Benjamin Franklin played a a similar instrument), but disappeared by the 1830s because of fears that the sound caused brain damage, according to Ed. (Seriously. I'm not making this up.)

Ed says the sound is sort of halfway between that of a violin and nails scratching on a blackboard. Apparently the sound is rather polarizing -- while some people love it, he says others cringe.

So how'd he get started playing glassware? Flash back to 1984. Ed had been making his own instruments when a recording from the 1930s of a person playing the glasses inspired him to make his own set. He was living in Newfoundland at the time and had been out of work for a year-and-a-half due to a broken leg. He was looking for something new to do. Playing the glasses seemed like a good new challenge to pursue. (He plays 12 different instruments.)

Ed says he's now one of about a dozen people in the world who actively play the glasses, and he travels all around the world for it. In fact, not only has he played on the Great Wall of China, he was also nearly arrested for doing so. He's also played on various cable channels and at music festivals around the world. Apparently there's even a documentary about him by Thai filmmakers called "The Man Who Dances the Glasses," but he has yet to see it.

Just for fun, Ed's tried using beer in the glasses instead of water but he says it only worked for about 30 minutes before the beer goes flat. "I sometimes use wine for weddings," he jokes. Strangely, some types of water are actually too full of minerals to produce the proper sound and he has to used bottled water. The glasses themselves must also be the right thickness -- Ed prefers hand blown glasses from Mexico that he buys on the cheap at places like Pier 1.

Ed doesn't play locally very much, but he's been doing a lot more domestic touring through Noisy Science, which performs a lot of children's shows throughout the Northeast. If you're interested in finding out more, you can contact him through the Noisy Science web site.

Here are few clips of Ed playing:

Chopsticks

Jingle Bells

Comments

It sounds like a resonating steel drum.

I had stander as a professor at cobleskill, he was one of my favorites, he is entertaining, educational, and just an overall great teacher. These mp3s sound nothing like the wine glasses do in person. I wonder if it is just hard to record the sound the glasses make.

This man is an AMAZING professor,he is hilarious and insanely intelligent! His classes, are by far, my favorite~

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Hudson Valley Hops 2015

The Hudson Valley Hops event returns to the Albany Institute April 18. The event will again include regional craft beer and cider tastings, and an... (more)

John, Robert, Michael...

Over at the Times Union, Cathleen Crowley put together some nice interactive visualizations of numbers for the most popular baby names in New York State... (more)

Drawing: Monarchs & Moonshine at miSci

The Museum of Science and Innovation -- miSci -- in Schenectady is hosting a Monarchs and Moonshine event this Thursday with a butterfly house, cocktails... (more)

Move Music Festival 2015

The MOVE Music Festival returns to Albany April 24-26. All-weekend passes for the multi-venue festival are currently on sale -- they're $20. Also, the lineup... (more)

Morning Blend

Hello. We're trying something new with Morning Blend because the old format was starting to feel really stale. This new take still includes links to... (more)

Recent Comments

The way the light hits the State Ed. building in the evening. It shines just through Alfred E. Smith, the LOB, and the Capitol and catches the corner columns in this orange glow. I don't know why, but I just find it stunning.

Drawing: Monarchs & Moonshine at miSci

...has 18 comments, most recently from julie

Morning Blend for Mar 30

...has 4 comments, most recently from JustJoe

Milk delivery options in the Capital Region

...has 41 comments, most recently from MB

Photos from AOA7

...has 5 comments, most recently from Laura M.

Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwiches

...has 11 comments, most recently from Daniel B.