About Brien Engel

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.

How did he get into the glass music? Awhile back, he was a theatrical sound designer in the Atlanta theatre scene, often building instruments and sound effects for live use in productions. In one instance, he made small wine glass sets for actors to play. This prompted more refined and expanded versions.

Top photo by John Merritt

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Another noteworthy inspiration was his use of digital samples of wine glasses for the sound of Charlotte the Spider, spinning her web in Atlanta’s Center for Puppetry Arts’ production of Charlotte’s Web. As successful as it was, it served as a beckoning back to the tactile world of performance -- why sample when you can actually skate on the rims of real glasses with your fingertips?

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.