Research

There is a long tradition of glass and sound. This page is a growing collection of examples that range from the traditional to the experimental.

Orbes - Verres Enharmoniques

Sophie Durand + Emmanuel Holterbach : verres enharmoniques
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’! Continuo

 

Minoru Sato & ASUNA

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 Archive.org.]

Jalatharangam

The Indian Jâlatharángini appeared perhaps around 700 CE. It consisted of a set of porcelain cups tuned with water, and was played with sticks covered with felt or tipped with cork.

 The jalatharangam is a melodic percussion instrument. It consists of a set of ceramic or metal bowls of different sizes that are filled with water so that each of them produces a particular note. The jalatharangam is played by striking the edge of these bowls with beaters, one in each hand. Anayampatti S Dhandapani was the son and disciple of Anayampatti Subbaiyer, who was Asthana Vidwan of Mysore and Ramanathapuram. Dhandapani and his brother Ganesan were among the very few exponents of this instrument. – See more at: http://radioweb.in/programs/anayampatti-s-dhandapani-artist-highlight#sthash.5axSMtQr.dpuf
 

James Rouvelle and Lili Maya

from James Rouvelle’s website:
Our sound work with glass involves the creation of shapes that can be bowed or struck to produce fundamental pitches and harmonics so that one instrument can sound more than one pitch. Working carefully with our expert gaffers, Manny Krakowski and Netty Blair, we were able to make several variations of vessel shapes that each produced a complex spectrum of tones. We were also able to develop methods of linking two or more objects on a rocking base so that two objects could be played simultaneously by one player and variations on timbre and attack through bowing, striking, rocking were possible.

For our performances we grouped objects in terms of their tunings and timbres making tuning changes (by reshaping, or filling vessels with water) where necessary to create a specific temperament. Once we created a temperament we improvised extensively with it and developed compositions for it. Our compositions are a mix of rehearsed sections/gestures connected by improvisation. While we usually decide how to start and end, the pieces are largely determined during the performance.

In both our sound and print work we used electro-magnet/neodymium magnet setups where the magnets moved in response to changes in the polarities of our electro-magnets that were triggered by fluctuations in the EMF of the space where they were.

 

 

Akio Suzuki

An artist from Japan who explores sound and material very extensively and with remarkable sensitivity. Here is an instrument called De Koolmees, consisting of hollow glass tubes suspended over a frame.

Here is  Suzuki exploring the acoustic of the Walthamstowe Marshes railway bridge. One of 3 small films made by Helen Petts. www.helenpetts.com

Meredith Monk

Our Lady of Late, for voice and wine glasses (1972)


Glass Armonica

Glass Armonica
In 1761 Benjamin Franklin was in London representing the Pennsylvania Legislature to Parliament. Franklin was very interested in music: he was a capable amateur musician, attended concerts regularly, and even wrote a string quartet! One of the concerts Franklin attended was by Deleval, a colleague of his in the Royal Academy, who performed on a set of water tuned wineglasses patterned after Pockridge’s instrument. Franklin was enchanted, and determined to invent and build ‘a more convenient’ arrangement.
http://www.glassarmonica.com/

Christina Kubisch

Armonica
Those who’ve heard people playing music with glass (not at all uncommon today), or anyone who’s worked a wet finger around the top of a water glass, will be familiar with the building blocks of a glass harmonica’s sound: steely, constant drones often touched by the sense of rushing or anxious velocity. Perhaps the way that the discs are arranged, or the fact that they are discs and not more concave shapes, produces, in the glass harmonica, a profoundly resonant exaggeration of the sounds produced by a wet water glass rim. The overtones created by concurrent drones are comparable to those of a gong or large metal disc, minus the moment of striking impact and the variable of decay. Imagine sounds with the up-front urgency of sine-wave tones or tuning forks (the sound source for Kubisch’s first release on Semishigure), but made strange and irregular by an obscured ringing, the glistening and wavering of vibrating metal.

Not part (from what I can tell) of one of the installation works for which Kubisch is most famous, Armonica is almost one hour of glass harmonica recordings, unaltered by the artist. The silences and short fades that cut the hour into intervals give evidence to a kind of sectioning or arrangement by Kubisch, a compositional intent that is nearly lost to the sense of awe directed at the instrument itself. It’s immediately hard to believe the sounds are non-manipulated until the noise of the player’s foot comes sneaking through like a message from the other side…the familiar one.

The higher-pitched discs sound at first like violins in a Conrad drone formation, tactile in their suggestion of movement, but soon lifting to the front of the sound field with the nervous constancies of pure tones, encompassing and impossible to let ride in the background. Lower-pitched discs operate within a distanced ringing similar to tuning fork notes, but always possess some form of minute, rhythmic imperfection, perhaps due to the finger’s revolution around the rim. When layered, these tiny undulations, like absent thought patterns, create bizarre, spatially-disorienting effects in conjunction with the more absolute sounds of the higher, rushing drones. The effect reminds me frequently of a more subtle version of the warm, warbly antique synth sound that Boards of Canada use so often. Kubisch’s piece, in contrast, is numbing and unforgiving; it’s closer in overall feel to the work of Phil Niblock, despite the frequency of the breaks in the sound’s forward momentum. I feel the recognizable sensations of mind-suspension combined with a very real gravity and heavy placement here. Something about these sounds I have not pinned down makes them seem utterly alien but at the same time so so present. It’s driving me a bit (more) crazy, feeling like I could make more than a few friends with some 18th century harmonica-playing spinster freaks. Thank you, Christina Kubisch.
http://www.brainwashed.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4054:christina-kubisch-qarmonicaq&catid=13:albums-and-singles&Itemid=133

Verillion

The Verrillion consisted of a table with glasses filled with different amounts of liquid. The performer would stand at one end of the table and strike the glasses with a stick, and was usually part of an accompaniment of instruments.

As the century developed, so did the variations on the verrillon. Rubbing the rim of a glass with a moistened finger actually became the ephemeral form, and it had substantial influence not only in music, but in the cathartical sciences of the day. For example, in G.P. Hasdorfer’s Deliciae Physicomathematicae published in 1677, Hasdorfer writes: “(There is) an account of an experiment with four glasses, filled with brandy, wine, water and salt water or oil. The diverse sounds produced by the contrasting content of the glasses were thought not only to correspond to the emotions aroused by the four “humours” of the human body, but even to have the power of alleviating or curing such disorders as a thickness of the blood.”
http://epl1171.wordpress.com/author/epl1171/

Federico Fellini

And the Ship Sailed on
In this famous scene from Fellini’s film E La Nave Va… (1983), a group of musicians and conductors seem to improvise on Franz Schubert’s Six Moments Musicaux No.3, 1828, originally for solo piano. One source claims the music was recorded by virtuoso glass player Bruno Hoffman and arranged by Nino Rota. Glass music doesn’t come more magical than this.
Continuo

Shui Chan - China

Glass Xylophone

Glass Xylophones are known to have been in existence since 1825.  David Ironmonger of London, England was one manufacturer of these instruments and  wrote two books for the “Harmonicon Glasses.”   The earliest method book, entitled Instructions for the new Improved Harmonicon Glasses, shows a drawing of a 3 1/2 octave instrument.  The instructions for playing read, “In performing on this Instrument the hammers must be held lightly striking the Glasses gently in the Centre over the letters.”
http://www.glassvirtuoso.us/glass-xylophone.html

Glass Flute

Patent lodged on 10th September 1806:
“Mr Laurent (Claude), who had long sought the means to remedy thetendency of flutes to alter their various tones due to the influence of hygrometric variations and wishing, at the same time, to render the sound of this instrument clean and with perfect purity, found crystal to be the right choice to give its sound the softness and purity he sought, in tones that remained the same and with an instrument that gave him the graceful note and faculty he longed for” (…) “These keys are embellished with jewels which shed lots of light over the instrument..”. The aesthetic charms of the instrument make it even more dreamlike to behold…

http://www.crystalmusic.fr/en/orchestre/historical-instruments.html

Pyrophone

In the 18th century, there was talk of a “chemical harmonica”.
“An instrument with dancing flames, invented by Mr. Kastner; it is a type of organ in which the pipes are replaced by glass tubes, which are used to house flames supplied by two lit gas outlets; when the flames were drawn together to merge, the sound died, and when they were moved apart, the sounds produced become more or less high or low, depending on the length of the tubes” Dict. Littré.
Invention of Mr Georges Frédéric Eugène Kastner (1852- 1882) who wrote a book and lodged a patent for “The singing flames” in 1875.VIDEO: PLAYING ON THE MODEL CONSTRUCTED BY F. KASTNER
http://www.crystalmusic.fr/en/orchestre/historical-instruments.html

Here’s a modern and (marketed) interpretation

Here’s a video of a pyrophone being played (from a French documentary)

Bohyun Yoon

Here’s a piece that utilizes the principles of the pyrophone

Glass Tube – 2012
Dimensions Variable
Materials: blown glass tube, color video with sound, 2 minutes

Annea Lockwood


“Glass World” (excerpt)
from Glass World (EM Records)
Recorded in 1970. Many types, shapes and sizes of glass were used in performances of the Glass World. The glass used was not specially prepared or shaped. Rather, pieces of glass which are not normally seen were played, including the four sound sources heard in this excerpt: A large sheet of wired glass, small glass discs which are rubbed together, chunks of green glass cullet (like rocks) which are moving against one another, sheets of micro-glass shaken or popped. My intention was to present each sound as if it were a piece of music in itself. For me every sound has its own minute form – is composed of small flashing rhythms, shifting tones, has momentum, lives out its own structure, and since we are used to hearing sounds together, either juxtaposed, blended or compared, one sound alone seems simple – but so are the round scuffed stones lying about everywhere, until you crack one apart and all its intricate beauty takes you by surprise.