This is a musical instrument created by Benjamin Franklin. He came up with the idea after seeing someone 'play' water-filled wine glasses at a show in London. It seems there wasn't much entertainment in those days, and even the entertainment wasn't much entertainment.

The principle of the Armonica is the same - the instrument itself is a series of bowls stacked together. You use a treadle to turn them and 'play' them by running a wet finger along the turning edges of the bowls.

The Armonica debuted in London in 1762, and became quite popular for a time - particularly in Germany, where Mozart wrote two pieces for it. That's a pretty sweet celebrity endorsement. However, its success was short-lived. It quickly fell out of favour, probably because there was no way to amplify it to be heard in large concert halls.

Of course, that sounds quite dull so I'd much rather believe the more dramatic alternate explanation - playing the armonica was banned because it could cause insanity.

I'd certainly go mental if someone forced me to sit in a hall and listen to it. Mind you, I've got a soft spot for the bagpipes, so maybe I'm halfway there.

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