The Cristal is a chromatic instrument such as the piano. It is made up of glass shafts that are stroked with wet fingers to produce vibration. In that respect it is very different from Benjamin Franklin’s Glass Harmonica. Indeed, the glass shafts do not directly produce any sound; the sound comes from the vibration of a steel rod which is fixed upon a springer.
The vibration of the glass shafts is transmitted to the steel rods, which are each tuned thanks to a metallic weight fixed on their extremity. These rods are fixed upon a heavy springer which, in turn, spreads the vibration to a large amplifier that spreads the sound in the air.
Some amplifiers can come in different shapes or sizes, and can be made using different materials (steel, stainless steel, fiberglass or carbon). Each material will give a different tone to the instrument.
A soft pedal can be used to control the resonance of the amplifier, enabling the use of staccato/legato.
However, there are other ways to create interesting sounds from this instrument.
Indeed, the metallic weights on each of the rods are easily accessible and can be played on using hands or percussive tools, creating rhythmic effects and enabling the use of these as chromatic percussions.
Having studied numerous different instruments over the years, Loup Barrow has developed a set of skills that allow him to explore many different possibilities on the Cristal and demonstrate the versatility of this instrument. He applies techniques equivalent to that of the keyboard (piano, organ…), as well as bow-like movements (violin, cello…). This can be explained by the presence of a board of key-like shafts where fingers move from one note to the next, and are played using a pull/push motion very similar to that of the bow.
History of the Cristal
The partnership of the Baschet brothers started in Paris in 1953. They dreamed of inventing a revolutionary new instrument using unique crafting ideas. To do this, they devoted the first four years of their partnership to fundamental research on acoustics. They were particularly interested in the concept of the integrated bow, which enabled the propagation in the air of internal sounds from the metal, which are normally inaudible.
The work of the Baschet brothers is based on three fundamental ideas: the research for an aesthetic sound; the research for an aesthetic display of the instrument; the awareness of the social function of art and its consequence. They apply these principles in different fields such as fine arts, the show business, music, architecture, acoustics, education and therapy.