The concept behind Hyalus was a simple one – to use Arturia Pigment‘s powerful and intuitive wavetable engine to create glass-like sounds. This set wasn’t about replicating glass instruments – there are some great sound libraries out there which do that incredibly well (Glass Works by Soniccouture gets a special mention here). Instead, it was about drawing inspiration from these unique glass instruments, and to use that to create something with the sonic quality of glass, but which exists in the realm of synthesis.
So, where exactly did I find that inspiration? To share some of these inspirations with you I thought I’d write a blog highlighting some of my favourite instruments, composers and performers using glass instruments today.
My personal favourite glass instrument, the Cristal Baschet, was created in 1952 by Bernard and Fracois Baschet. They built this instrument with a series of glass and metal rods, which are then played with wetted fingers. The player stokes the glass rods which in turn cause the metal rods to vibrate, creating the distinctive sound that we hear. This sound is then amplified by large fibreglass or plastic cones. Depending on the pressure applied when playing, the Cristal Baschet can create sounds which range from delicate and ethereal, to warm and aggressive.
This instrument has been increasing in popularity with film and media composers in recent years, with many well-known composers using it to create unique, layered textures, or even using it as a main focal-point of their compositions.
The Glass Harmonica is an instrument with an interesting history. Originally invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin no less, the Glass Harmonica was originally inspired by Franklin watching people playing wine glasses. He then created the instrument as a way of being able to play a range of pitches, with a similar sound to wine glasses, from a single instrument. For a time it became popular, but this ended when stories of players and listeners being driven mad started emerging. Apparently, over a prolonged period of time it caused severe depression and melancholia due to it’s plaintive tones. Still, it’s an incredible sounding instrument, and one that has made a comeback recently, especially in horror scores!
Cloud Chamber Bowls
The Cloud Chamber Bowls were originally made in 1950 by musician Harry Partch, who used a set of Pyrex bowls, which he sourced from the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory, to suspended from a frame. Originally these bowls were struck with mallets, although bowing them also makes an incredibly delicate resonant sound which can be great for creating unique textures and soundbeds.
People who are familiar with my sound sets may know that I’m a big fan of Cliff Martinez – as one of the foremost film composers with a penchant for synthesizers, his minimalistic approach to composition and his use of electronics to create atmosphere is, in my opinion, second to none. It was through Martinez’s work that I first discovered glass instruments in 2011, when I first heard his score for Drive.
Drive was lauded by many for it’s use of synthesis to evoke a nostalgic feel, but what attracted me most to this film was the ethereal, glassy feel that the original score brought to it. Pieces such as I Drive used the Cristal Baschet to give a raw quality to moments of emotion, while Where’s The Deluxe Version? used it toheighten the sense of desperation and tension when blended with synthesizers and drum machines. For people interested in film composition, I highly recommend the video below, in which Martinez discusses his instruments and techniques. It even features a short section of him playing his own Cristal Baschet!
Thomas Bloch is a name most haven’t heard, but many will have heard his playing. As Europe’s foremost player of instruments of slightly unusual character he has played on many recordings, from pop artists such as Adele, Gorillaz and Daft Punk,to film composers such as Jóhann Jóhannsson, Bloch plays both Glass Harmonica and Cristal Baschet, as well as a repertoire of other obscure instruments.
Bloch also performed all the instruments on the previously mentioned fantastic Glass Works Kontakt library from Soniccouture, which is the gold standard of realistic glass samples for mock-ups. But if you’re looking to add real glass recordings to your scores, then get in touch with Thomas, as he’s the man for the job!
Hyalus contains 100 glass-inspired patches and 12 wavetables for Arturia Pigments, and is available now. You can find out more information and listen to many of the sounds at https://www.tomwolfe.co.uk/hyalus-for-pigments