The Cristal Baschet – its history from the 18th century to the present day

The pioneer

After his father’s death, Dr. of Law and Philosophy Ernst Florens Chladni, motivated by his love for music, turned to experimental acoustics. Inspired by physicist Georg Lichtenberg’s rersearch, in 1787 he succeeded in making sounds visible in a solid material. He spread sand over a small glass plate and set it into vibration by scraping the bow of a violin along one edge of the plate or touching it wirth a vibrating tuning fork. The vibrations set the sand in motion, forming lines and patterns called Chladni’s figures. – Sounds made visible to the human eye.

During his further studies in sound Chladni developed two musical instruments, the euphonium in 1790 and the clavicylinder in 1799. These inventions and demonstrations of his sound figures all over Europe enabled Chladni to make his living as a lecturer and teacher during this exciting age of scientific discovery. Then as now people were fascinated by the patterns created and by the new sounds - among them Napoleon, Goethe, Lichtenberg and Laplace. Chladni’s intensive studies and experiments in sound inspired numerous well known physicists to carry on his work in the field of acoustics. To this day, his achievements are used in instrument building, high frequency technology and concert hall construction.

The perfectionists

In 1952, the brothers Bernard and Francois Baschet, in their search for new sounds, rediscovered the instrumental and sound techniques of the euphonium and developed them further. Their goal was the creation of an original sound sculpture of their own. Years of creative research into sounds and materials finally led to the Cristal Baschet.
With this new and fascinating instrument the Baschet brothers even appeared on the “Ed Sullivan Show” (USA), an important platform for many musical artists and stars at the beginning of their careers. The Baschet brothers too made quite an inpression. Today they are counted among the greatest experts in sound techniques world-wide.

The Cristal Baschet is part of a separate new family of instruments. It is made of glass, steel, metal, and synthetic materials. Steel shafts are embedded in a metal bed, their pitch determined by metal blocks fixed to each one’s extremity (about 6 steel shafts for small Cristal Baschet sound sculptures, up to 63 for the concert Cristal). A glass rod is horizontally affixed to each steel shaft. If a glass rod is stroked with moistened fingers, the vibration is passed on to the metal. The musician can feel the vibrations directly in his hands. Several diffusers made of various materials and a tall, flame-shaped metal part transmit the vibrations into the air, creating an audible sound.

To the present day, the Baschet brothers strive to perfect their instrument in regard to its extraordinary sound as well as its outer form. Its distinctive, purely acoustic sound opens up a variety of musical avenues and creates a fascinating listening experience. – Those who have not had an opportunity to hear and see the Cristal Baschet truly have missed something.

The Sound Structures

In addition to the Cristal Baschet, the Baschet brothers have developed a great number of percussion instruments. These so-called “sound structures” are used in several hundered music schools, mainly in France, in the musical field as well as in educational work. But on an international scale, too, artists and musical formations like to use theses unusual instruments for their performances.