A thousand years or so ago, back when the village of Bath was settled by water-loving grandmas, a tiny culture was born. At no other time or place in recorded history was there such a concentration of like-minded bathers and, in the way of all isolated and unique communities, the grandmas were motivated to describe and continue their traditions. Most of them were illiterate so the continuity had to be oral, but those women knew how to talk.

One of the sweetest creations to arise was bath music. Of course the bathers loved their activity for its warmth and cleanliness, for the relaxation the experience provided after soil and toil. But as they settled into their baths, many of them slowed down enough to appreciate the tones of water on water. Waterfalls roar and creeks burble, but a palmful of bath water, raised a foot above the pool and then released, makes music that sounds like angel voices.

In time, some of the grandmas tried to duplicate the bell-like sounds of bathwater. A group came up with a xylophone-type instrument, but they constructed it of treble metal instead of base wood. More grandmas played with the instrument in their baths; a hobby was born. The language then was still very German; they called their toy a glockenspiel (“bell play”).

The metal bars of the instrument lay on a wooden frame and early players rested that frame across the top of their bathtub. But some tubs were broad, and bathers were famous for relaxing so much they sometimes dropped what they meant to hold. A few decades after the first glockenspiel was assembled, one of the younger grandmas got the idea of turning the thing and mounting it on a lyre-shaped frame.

Modern historians assert that the glockenspiel was invented in Germany, and lyre-framed so it could be carried on parade, but that’s no more accurate than the “official” history of Bath.

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