The Enchanting Echoes of the Cristal Baschet, a Rare Organ Made of Glass Rods, Metal, and Wood

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Invented in 1952 by Bernard and François Baschet, the Cristal Baschet (also called a Crystal Organ) is a unique instrument that outputs an even more unique and artful sound. In the video above, multi-instrumentalist and film composer Marc Chouarain explains how it works and demonstrates techniques for turning finger rubs and drags into deep melodic echoes.

According to musician and rare instrument performer Thomas Bloch, models of the crystal organs range from 3.5 to 6 octaves and are made of 56 chromatically tuned glass rods. To play it, musicians rub the rods with wet fingertips. “The vibration of the glass is passed on to the heavy block of metal by a metal stem whose variable length determines the frequency,” Bloch explains. “Amplification is obtained by fiberglass cones fixed on wood and by a tall cut out metal part, in the shape of a flame. ‘Whiskers’ (moustaches), placed under the instrument, to the right, increase the sound power of high-pitched sounds in vibrating by sympathy.”

Ravi Shankar, Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Daft Punk, Radiohead, Tom Waits, and Manu Dibango are among the musical acts who have used the Cristal Baschet, according to an official Baschet Sound Structures Association brochure. For more from Chouarain, check out his Facebook page.

 

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