Archive for the 'glass music' Category

Radical Glass Music #2

Johannes Vermeer 'Woman With A Pearl Necklace' (c.1662-65)

01 Frédéric Nogray ‘Nekli – #01’ (18:09)
02 Zach Wallace ‘Glass Armonica – #2’ (19:05)
03 Michel Redolfi & Thomas Bloch ‘Ptyx’ (9:46)
04 Angus Maclaurin ‘Drunken Nightmare’ (11:30)
05 Annea Lockwood ‘Mini Mobile’ (2:13)

Total time 60:43
See also Radical Glass Music #1.

Nogray's singing bowls with friendNogray's live set up

  • Frédéric Nogray ‘Nelki #01’ (18:09)
    A track from Nogray‘s 2008 ‘Nelki’ CD on Prêle Records. This is music made entirely on crystal singing bowls, played with a wooden stick I assume. Nogray makes full use of the glasses purity of tone in this extremely restrained track. He could almost be using a sine wave oscillator for that matter. Another striking aspect is the floating quality of glass sounds: they are not grounded, they float. I think the Vermeer painting above has something of these pure colors and  suspended time.

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Zach Wallace's CD coverZach Wallace's glass armonica

  • Zach Wallace ‘Glass Armonica – #2’ (19:05)
    Wallace is a member of Sun Circle duo with Greg Davis. This track comes from a glass armonica CD released by Root Strata in 2009. Wallace apparently build his own version of the glass harmonica whose sound is quite unique, with properties close to a hurdy-gurdy, say – expect more grating sounds than your average Mozart. Some info here and here.

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Screen capture from Ptyx (2004)Michel Redolfi

  • Michel Redolfi & Thomas Bloch ‘Ptyx’ (9:46)
    From a live recording in a Lille swimming pool, France, 2004. Bloch plays Cristal Baschet and glass harmonica, while Redolfi takes care of sound treatment and spatial effects. As this comes from a YouTube video, the stereo effects are unfortunately lost. See this article for more info.

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Angus Maclaurin's Glass Music trayGMusic-front

  • Angus Maclaurin ‘Drunken Nightmare’ (11:30)
    The ‘Glass Music’
    CD by US composer Maclaurin was recorded on tuned glasses, with occasional sampler and vocals and released on the Bubblecore label, 2000.  Maclaurin is interested by the poetry and mystery of glass sounds, building short, atmospheric tracks with unusual density for glass music. He’s also using rerecording, sound treatments and effects in a rather un-dogmatic way for glass music standards that is.

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Annea Lockwood 'Glass World' LP (1970)Annea Lockwood

  • Annea Lockwood ‘Mini Mobile’ (2:13)
    An excerpt from Lockwood‘s landmark ‘Glass World’ LP released on Tangent Records, 1970. The LP is a collection of very short tracks from ephemeral glass sound sculptures including glass rods, sheets or bottles.

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The Glass Orchestra 1st LP

LP front coverThe Glass Orchestra ca1978Side ALP back cover

01 A1 (10:01)
02 A2 (3:56)
03 A3 (6:57)
04 A4 (2:33)
05 B1 (7:55)
06 B2 (15:19)

Total time 46:40
LP released by Toronto Music Gallery Editions, 1978

On their first album, Toronto’s Glass Orchestra (members: Paul Hodge, John Kuipers, V. Eric Cadersky, Miguel Frasconi, Marvin Green) explore all the sonic possibilities of glass objects and glass instruments, sometimes with the addition of vocals or water sounds as well. Thanks to the variety of instruments used (incl. glass harmonica, flutes and xylophones, found bottles and objects, etc), the Orchestra is able to produce a large array of sounds, from percussion to whistles, from bowed glass to shaterred glass, from ringing glass to blown into glass. When they started in late 1977, The Toronto Music Gallery was their live venue of choice, but they soon toured worldwide starting 1980. On their first LP, the Glass Orchestra is exploring its unique instrumentarium through improvisations where sonic discovery, unconventional tuning, attention to details and mutual listening are key elements. The philosophical and musical influence of R. Murray Schafer is obvious, yet, contrary to what I thought first, the Glass Orchestra members did not study with him in Toronto and even deny the influence. Yet the Far East and gamelan nuances, the communal playing techniques, the quest for magical sounds, all link the Glass Orchestra to Murray Schafer’s philosphy. On track #6, the Orchestra uses ringing glasses to mesmerizing effect, displaying the magical glass sounds in all their glory. Talking about magic, Schafer notoriously included a transcription of a wolf’s howl in his awesome String Quartet #5, 1989.


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The Glass Orchestra, LP, Music Gallery Editions Number 10
Tales from Siliconesia, 12”, GO-01 (GO=Glass Orchestra records)
Live In Frankfurt, radio broadcast (see Closet of Curiosities)
1989 Human, CD, GO-MUSE Si-02
2000 Girl, Interrupted, film soundtrack
2007 Live From the Archives Vol I, CD, GO
2007 Live From the Archives Vol II, CD, GO

AG Neue Musik ‘Glasmusik’


01 Glasmusik – Teil 1 (22:32)
02 Glasmusik – Teil 2 (21:57)

AG Neue Musik with Walter Sons, conductor

Total time 44:30
LP released on Disco-Center, Germany, 1982

Inspired by Josef Anton Riedl’s 1977 ‘Glas-Spiel‘ (for glass tubes) and the activities of the then newly launched Toronto Glass Orchestra, Walter Sons created his own glass music ensemble in 1981, at first named AG Neue Musik (New Music Workshop). It was composed of students from the local Kassel University who were training to become music teachers. Walter Sons had been teaching new music, collective improvisation and direction at Kassel University since 1973. He later created an other ensemble titled Metalmusik (1987). Glass materials were collected thanks to a gift from the local Glashütte Süßmuth Gmbh company (in Immenhausen near Kassel), a company specializing in traditional glass manufacturing. The glass elements and objects are mostly used in their original state, neither re-build nor re-shaped, except for home-made glass flutes. The Glasmusik LP is based on several collective improvisations, from which 8 distinct parts emerged that were re-enacted for the recording. Additionally, post-production montage is noticeable on side B when the drum section slowly fade out.

The performance and recording site – the foundry house of the Henschel factory (where once the melted steel was put into shape) – adds to the acoustics of the instruments here. It is a rotunda (a building of circular shape), about 200 square meters big, with a dome-shaped roof, made up of clay tubes. The text mentions the ‘supra acoustic’ (probably a lot of reverb and sound reflections) that, while being critical for conventional instruments, was an advantage for the glass sounds.
[Email from Vespucci, Feb. 10, 2009]

The full range of glass sounds is used from hitting glass, blowing bottles, rubbing glass objects with ustensils or wetted hands, etc. Instrumentation is varied and include: glass tubes, sheets of glass, marble glass, hanging glass rods, glass flutes, various bottles and big jars reminiscent of Harry Partch’s Cloud-Chamber Bowls. In later Glasmusik Ensemble incarnations, glass harp, Plattenverrophone or Verrophone (see here and here) were added. Note: I’m adding a new category on this blog titled ‘glass music’ so as to include previous posts François et Bernard Baschet and Radical Glass Music. More to come, hopefully. Thanks to Vespucci for generous help with this post.


Bernard & François Baschet ‘Les Sculptures Sonores’


01 Daniel Ouzounoff ‘Marche’ (2:51)
02 Jacques Lasry ‘Paludisme’ (3:16)
03 Jacques Lasry ‘Cosmotonie’ (5:47)
04 Jacques Lasry ‘Danse Du Crystal #2’ (2:04)
05 Jacques Lasry ‘Chronophage #2’ (17:15)
06 Bernard Baschet & Michel Deneuve ‘Errance’ (19:16)
07 Michel Deneuve ‘Empreinte De Figures Impressionistes 1st Mvt.’ (4:52)
08 Toru Takemitsu ‘Seasons – excerpt’ (6:45)
09 Michel Deneuve ‘Le Vol Des Flamants’ (2:43)
10 Michel Deneuve ‘Laudes & Annonces Aux Bergers’ (1:49)
11 Michel Deneuve ‘Comme Une Autre Réalité’ (3:25)

Total time 70:00
CD released by Soundworld, UK, 1999

François and Bernard Baschet started creating metallic sound sculptures in the 1950s (also known specifically as Structures Sonores). Interestingly, none of the brothers had musical background ; François studied sculpture in art school when he came back from war and Argentina and Bernard (pictured above with Thomas Bloch) was an engineer. Their unusual music instruments gained immediate recognition and fame among musicians and the audience. During the 1970s, they had exhibitions in New York, Tokyo, Osaka, Mexico, Stokholm, etc. The Baschets also created outdoor sculptures, decorative art, special outfits (e.g. Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, William Klein, 1966) and nowadays educational workshops for children. From the start, they had contemporary composers writing music for their instruments, more often than not Jacques Lasry and Michel Deneuve. They issued a dozen albums between 1958 and the end of 20th c. This CD is a retrospective disc offered with François Baschet’s Les Sculptures Sonores book, published in english by Soundworld Publishing, UK, 1999. It includes excerpts from previous LPs and CDs and is the best introduction to the Sculptures Sonores. Most sounds have this special retro-futurist appeal, so to speak, as if music of the future heard from the heart of the 1970s. Track #3 is the closest France has ever come to Harry Partch’s microtonality on self-build percussion instruments, and is a delight. The Takemitsu is an enchanting sound garden of bell chimes floating around and soft breezing wind, in which ‘the percussion timbre effects are often indistinguishable from electronic music’, writes “Blue” Gene Tyranny.


Radical glass music round up

01 ASUNA+Minoru Sato

‘Superposing Five Harmonic States’ (38:04)
From ‘Texture In Glass Tubes and Reed Organ’ CD, Spekk 2007

02 Orbes (Sophie Durand+Manu Holterbach)

‘Au Rivage Des Voix Mortes’ (16:34)
Live Les Voûtes, Paris, April 6, 2003
From the Cloud Of Statics CD ”Verres Enharmoniques: Un’, 2006

03 Nicole Reisnour

‘Night in August (’99)’ (53:38)
From The Somnambutone show on free103point9 Online Radio
Broadcasted April 30, 2007

Total time: 1h48′

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In 1974 you were rumored to be following up Dark Side Of The Moon with an album played entirely on household objects. How far did you get?
David Gilmour: We did spend a lot of time with rubber bands stretched over matchboxes. All we got out of it was probably a sixteen-track tape with tuned wine glasses. Wetted finger. Wine glass. All tuned up. Then you’d tune it up to a semitone higher. We used it for the opening of the Wish You Were Here album. It’s a lovely sound. [from interview]

During the dinner the band tuned up wine glasses and played the intro to Shine On You Crazy Diamond (it was originally done with wine glasses at Abbey Road studios!). David was dared to use the glasses at the following night’s concert in Munich! Which he did for the rest of the tour! [from a Gilmour’s fan website]

As soon as Benjamin Franklin completed his glass harmonica in 1761, he went on tour demonstrating the instrument all over Europe. Mozart was eventually requested to compose for it in 1791, hence launching an endless series of composers writing for the latest technological achievements of the day – the mid-18th c. automatons and mechanical instruments music being the actual birth of industrial music as we know it. The scientist and magnetism specialist Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) even used the glass harp to put his subjects into hypnotic trance. But composers loved it. From the glass harmonica to the Harry Partch’s Cloud Chamber Bowls ; from the Cristal Bachet to . . . er, Pink Floyd, composers have been drawned to the purity of glass sounds. This is a selection from 21st century retakes on glass music. Warning: no Christmas carols here, but rather uncompromizing drone music – this is what a continuo is made of, after all!

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Japanese Minoru Sato & ASUNA (Naoyuki Arashi) recorded 5 different tracks of harmonium (a reed organ), the sustained notes recorded into a specific glass tube like the one pictured at the top of this post – the glass tube adding its own frequency and harmonics to the organ notes. Their composing method is pure minimalism, since each track starts 1 minute after the previous one (according to diagram above), slowly building an impressive, resplendent organ drone. [You might want to check their radical‘Valve/Membrance’ video on youtube and an interesting documentary on]

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French duo Orbes devised their own system of tuned wine glasses, with added water pumping under the table allowing them to alter the ringing pitch with their feet. Their clear and refined sonorities have a decidedly french flavor, not unlike harpsichord composer Louis Couperin. You know, ‘Les Folies Françaises’!

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There’s still plenty of good music to be made with ordinary tuned wine glasses, though. Nicole Reisnour created this gorgeous piece for a radio program called The Somnambutone whose motto is to ‘broadcast sounds to accompany dreams’. American pianist and gamelanist Reisnour studied at Mills College with teachers like Fred Frith, Annie Gosfield, Alvin Curran and James Tenney. She is a microtonal composer as well, with works for string quartet and chamber orchestra. ‘Night in August (’99)’ is an enchanting work for several wine glasses (my guess is 6) probably with the use of rerecording. It is build on ascending and descending scales and micro-intervals, with a mesmerizing effect on this listener. This is eventful music, not static droning, each new sound adding its exquisite magic to the ringing tones. [Picture above shows a polish Glass Duo member. I wasn’t that excited about Reisnour’s picture on her myspace page]

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