The Cristal Baschet

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The fingers must be wet to effectively play the Crystal Baschet. Note the container for water at left. (Photo by Tonamel)

The Cristal Baschet is an acoustic musical instrument belonging to the friction idiophone class. The vibration of its individual elements produces tones by means of friction. At the heart of the device are metal rods are embedded in a heavy plate. To each metal rod is attached a glass rod. The glass rods are stroked with the fingers, the vibrations producing sound.

The instrument is a favorite of Chris Martinez, known for composing many of director Steven Soderbergh’s scores.

The Cristal Baschet was invented in 1952 by the French instrument artists Bernard and Francois Baschet, who specialized in creating sculptures that could be played to produce music. The duo also invented the inflatable guitar, an aluminium piano and an “educational instrumentarium” for the purpose of giving young people exposure to musical concepts.

The Cristal Baschet appeared during a particularly avant-garde period of music, developed alongside the style known as musique concrète, introduced by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry), Electro-Acoustic music and early Moog synthesizers. The Cristal Baschet produces music similar in style to these, but through purely acoustic means that rely on no electrical amplification.

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