Extended techniques for the cristal baschet style instruments (amplified)
Updated: Jun 14, 2021
During the first series of international lock-downs to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I had the pleasure of building two electric cristals. Instead of amplifying the instruments using a beautiful metal resonator cone, I chose the practical option of attaching contact microphones to the instruments. This greatly decreased the overall bulk and weight of the instruments so that they could be packed into a suit case. While I am yet to design the suit case that they will travel in, I have discovered some unique and unusual tone colours that are available when you amplify a cristal baschet style instrument using relatively cheap pick ups.
This is not an extended technique as such, but it is the point of departure. Normale is normal tone colour, achieved through rubbing the glass rods in a horizontal motion with between one and five fingers.
Side Bow (S.B.)
Side bow technique is achieved by bowing the glass rod at a perpendicular angle instead of bowing parallel to the length of the rod. This technique brings out the fundamental frequency of the glass rod, as opposed to the threaded bolt. I am uncertain if this technique would be very effective on an unamplified instrument.
Side Bow Tremolo
Side bow tremolo is achieved by combining the rapid motion of the tremolo with the side bowing technique.
Col Metallo Battuto
Col Metallo Battuto is achieved simply by striking the threaded bolts with one's fingernails.
A tremolo effect is achieve by rubbing the glass rod rapidly in a horizontal motion. I find this technique works best by using three to four fingers, and rubbing on the side of the rod as opposed to the top surface.
Col Vetro Battuto
Col Vetro Battuto is achieved by striking the glass rods with one's fingertips. This technique was created by Jesse Budel and first appeared in his piece Das Wasser Im Bade. Jesse calls this technique fingernail gliss.
Over Pressure (O.P.)
Over pressure achieves similar results to those produced by a string player when instructed to play O.P. Over pressure is achieved on the electric cristals by applying more pressure to the glass rod than one would normally apply in order to produce a normal tone, doing so creates quite a bit more noise than pitched sound. Once the performer is capable of producing O.P. on command, then instructions such as O.P. ----> Normale or
Normale ----> O.P. can be given to produce a a sonic texture which changes as it unfolds.
Circle bow combines the timbres of normale and side bow in something of an indeterminate way. If the circle is taken slowly, the main quality of the sound is normale with the occasional splash of S.B. If the player takes the circular motion quickly then more of the high pitched side bow sounds come through. Small circles or large circles can be used, the smaller the circle, the more the fundamental frequency of the glass rod is sounded.
Infinity bowing is much the same as circle bowing, but the player rubs the rod in a side ways figure of eight instead of a circle. As with circle bowing, the speed and size of the infinity figure affects overall tone quality.
Pedal tones are achieved through a pulling/rubbing motion at the ends of the glass rods (the end furthest away from the cable lug).
Side Bow Sul Ponticello
Sul Ponticello effect can be achieved when side bowing the glass at the point where it meets the cable lug.
Side Bow Tremolo Sul Ponticello
Bowing a rapid tremolo with finger rubbing against glass and cable lug.
Side Bow Glissandi
This technique is achieved in the same way that a pianist achieves glissandi at the piano, the cristalist simply needs to ensure each note sounds as their fingers pass across it.
Pedal tone Glissandi
Pedal tone glissandi are achieved in the same way as side bow glissandi, except the cristalist runs their fingers along the ends of the glass rods at the location that they would use to ordinarily achieve a pedal tone.
This technique involves altering the pressure as you play, and you are attempting to sound normale, side bow, and pedal tone pitches all in the same bow stroke. The result is quite similar to Over Pressure.
When recording or performing with the electric cristals I usually use a digital delay pedal, not so much for cool effects, but in order to have a longer and more sustained decay of the sound envelope. Of course when you amplify a cristal baschet style instrument, what you have is basically a very very cool looking synthesizer so the effects you apply are limited only to your imagination really. I have kept the samples in each of these videos free of digital delay so you can hear the true sound of the instrument, but the videos below show some of the same techniques with the digital delay pedal activated.
Circle Bow with digital delay:
Infinity Bow with digital delay:
Pedal Tone Gliss with digital delay:
Side Bow Gliss with digital delay:
If you're interested in hearing how these techniques have been applied in musical composition, check out my piece Still performed by Gabriella Smart, and commissioned by Tura New Music. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned for my next post where I will discuss how the electric cristal is tuned.