Demonstrating Cristal Baschet C49

The Cristal Baschet is the most well-known example of the various « sound structures » invented by Bernard and François Baschet in 1952, as part of a new scientific and artistic approach to musical instrument making.

This modular methodology for creating new instruments, initiated by the invention of the inflatable guitar by Francois Baschet, was patented by the Baschet Brothers in several countries in the 1950s.

In the 1960’s, the Baschet Brothers worked with the Music Research Group in Paris and Bernard worked closely with Pierre Schaeffer, François Bayle and Beatriz Ferreyra on the classification of complex sounds, as documented in the Treatise of Musical Objects (1966). The new « Musique concrète » theory, based on electro-acoustic signals inspired the Baschet Brothers’ approach to making new sounds but without using electricity.

The development of the Cristal Baschet, as well as the other Baschet Sound Structures, benefited from a long term collaboration with musicians and composers starting with Jacques and Yvonne Lasry and their son Teddy Lasry, and later by Michel Deneuve, Cathy Tardieu, Thomas Bloch and Catherine Brisset, as well as instrument-makers such as Alain Dumont and Christian Maire.

The Cristal Baschet is played by stroking wet fingers on the glass rods that form the keyboard. These glass rods are fixed into metal rod oscillators that are themselves clamped into a heavy piece of metal. This stroking action is known as a stick-slip friction phenomena. The vibration created in the entire instrument can then either radiate out into the air through large sheets of metal, fibre composite cones, balloons and/or tubes (depending on the tone quality desired) to produce sound or be captured by vibration detectors to make, for example, electro-acoustic music. Sympathetic resonators such as strings (called « whiskers ») may be added to enrich the high pitch harmonics. The Cristal Baschet can be tuned to different scales and tessiture, for example, in the western scale from F1 (43,65Hz) to G6 (1567,98Hz). The Cristal Baschet is sometimes called an « acoustic synthesizer » due to the different possibilities of sound textures and its modular design.

The instrument continues to be used by music performers, artists, composers and sound designers for cinema.

The only original Cristal Baschet, under licence of the Baschet Estate, continues to be made exclusively by the Baschet Sound Structures Association created in 1982 by Bernard Baschet in the artist’s former workshop in the Paris region. The production and acoustics research is directed by Frédéric Fradet.

In addition to the Baschet Sound Structures Association based in France, a worldwide Baschet network exists, notably in Spain, Japan and Mexico.

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