The Cristal already had a past. Since 1977 Michel Deneuve has dedicated all his energy to giving it a future. He works at making the instrument known and he is the first musician to create an instrumental technique and develop a repertoire for a horizontal keyboard Cristal.
In 1952, Yvonne and Jacques Lasry were the first cristalists playing on vertical keyboards. (See “History of the Cristal”).
Michel and the Cristal
Studying and refining a playing technique to open other horizons for the Cristal, Michel Deneuve continually pushes its possibilities, seeking to demonstrate the many facets of this young instrument. He develops for the Cristal a method based on that of classical keyboards (organ, piano, etc.) and bow instruments (violin, cello, etc.). This combined technique comes from the fact that the Cristal’s keyboard consists of glass or crystal rods on which the fingers pass from one note to the next, as on any keyboard, and stroke each rod pulling and pushing, as a bow along strings.
He explores the Cristal’s possibilities by playing alongside musicians with different styles on his concert tours to other countries, sharing his music with these musicians and their instruments from all tendencies, all nationalities.
As another means to demonstrate his eclectic interests, Michel Deneuve appears in concerts with such artists as bass-baritone José Van Dam, violist Jean-Baptiste Brunier, cellist Dominique de Willancourt, as well as the flutists Philippe Bernold and Jean Ferrandis, the pianists Pascal Amoyel and Alain Kremski, or with the Fine Arts Quartet.
He has also followed the batons of conductors such as Constantin Simonovitch, Christoph Escher and Françoise Legrand.
Several composers have written works for Michel Deneuve and the Cristal : Jean-Christophe Adam Walrand, Dominique Dupraz, Paul Hertel, Alain Labarsouque, Marcel Landowski, Françoise Legrand, Vincent Dionne, Ignatio Yepes, Horatu Radulescu, Alain Kremski, among others.
Today, interest in the Cristal continues to grow, as much on the part of audiences who are never indifferent to its magic, as on the part of musicians who can judge the instrument’s true performance by listening to it and participating in concerts and recordings together with this instrument.
Why the Cristal ?
The Cristal was invented by Bernard and François Baschet, two French artists as well as instrument makers, and the creators of sound sculptures.
The Cristal was born from the desire to depart from the usual analysis of acoustics and invent a new system.
The Larousse dictionary defines crystal as a “non-isotropic, solid substance, often transparent, naturally taking on the form of a regular or symetrical polyhedron”.
“This definition seems analogous to the look of the sound structure we had developed. Moreover, the sound produced by the structure is pure and luminous like crystal.
François and I began our research around 1952.
“We didn’t try to modify or transform existing acoustical mechanisms. We analysed, picked apart, the sources of the sound in their elements and then reconstructed them by playing with them.
“Not only did we read just about everything on the subject at that time, but we also reproduced the experiments the readings described. An innovative instrument maker needs to be good with his hands, have a completely open ear and, between the two, a rather mysterious relationship. That’s how we attained an acoustic mix never used before with musical instruments.
“In 1977, Michel Deneuve discovered our work and agreed to dedicate the necessary number of years to mastering the technique. The Cristal he plays was constructed for and with him. Together, we chose the timbre and perfected the keyboard.(…)
“Our musical experiments opened many possible paths for us. Michel Deneuve has turned one of them into a reality. Neither he nor I have finished interpreting what we believe can be.” Bernard Baschet
History of the Cristal
First version of the Cristal. The keyboard was vertical, diffusers were made of inflatable bags.
1970 : Appearance of the first horizontal keyboards.
A Cristal Trio
How does it work ?
The Cristal is a chromatic instrument whose keyboard consists of glass rods that are stroked with moistened fingers, the water acting like rosin.
Unlike Benjamin Franklin’s glass harmonica, the Cristal’s glass rods produce no sound : the vibrating element, the source of the sound, is a steel shaft embedded into a metal block.
The vibration provoked by the moistened fingers which rub along the glass rods is transmitted to the steel shafts, each one’s pitch being determined by the metal block fixed to its extremity.
These shafts, embedded in a heavy metal bed, transmit their vibrations to the diffusers which, in turn, transmit the sound into the air.
The diffusers can be of a variety of shapes, sizes and materials (steel-stainless or otherwise- carbon or glass fibre). The material used for the diffuser determines the timbre of the instrument.
A damper activated with the aid of a pedal controls the duration of the metallic resonances of the large, stainless steel sheet.
Secondary tones can be obtained by striking:
– the metal blocks with the hands or mallets. These metal blocks, easily accessible to the player, thus produce the sound effects of percussion instruments.
– on the tuned steel shafts, permitting a chromatic percussion effect.
Today, with the contribution of the musicians who play it, Bernard Baschet has brought the instrument to a greater maturity, offering several types of Cristals (practise Cristal, concert Cristal, etc).
The two most refined versions are:
– the 4.5 chromatic octaves from C 0 to G 5
– the 5 chromatic octaves from F 0 to G 5
François Baschet, édition l’Harmattan,
preface by Yehudi Menuhin and postface by Michel Deneuve, 2007.
Bernard Baschet chercheur sculpteur de son
Danièle Frauensohn, édition l’Harmattan
preface by Michel Deneuve, 2008.