This medium size sound sculpture, built around 1960, shows weights formed by round washers tightened with nuts to relatively thin rods, near the base of the rods. There is a particular feature that appears remarkable at first glance: a dampening device formed by a bar of spongy material placed across the free ends of the rods operated by a simple foot lever. This “muffler” can be applied to stop the vibrations of the rods (partially or completely). This is an example of the ingenuity of the Baschets, present in many of the missing pieces, ready to be rediscovered.
The decreasing lengths of the rods suggests that the entire range of that oscillating system should have spanned approximately an octave. It is relatively clear to us that a specific, recognizable tuning was carefully defined and that these sound sculptures were suitable to play melodies within that pitch range.
We have also dealt with these weight settings on the DIY kits with pre-drilled gums from François’ personal collection left to our workshop. Those kits showed us how we could create a cohesive timbre across diatonic and pentatonic scales, exploring the benefits of enhancing different overtone orders by placing equal lengths on different sections of the rods.
Luckily, we have files from après-Baschet pieces using weights for overtone tuning.
First Minusculòfon, après-Baschet, by Martí Ruiz, 2010
Oscillators: 7 steel threaded rods, 6mm in diameter. Some of them have weights along their lengths.
Activation: percussion with an iron rod with a felt cap.
Radiation: hard cardboard cones with fiberglass-resin core (mounting) pieces offering a clean frequency response, warm and full sound.
Gamut: pentatonic scale in A minor (A,C,D,E,G). We began to tame the overtones intuitively. We hear the first partial of the rods, as the fundamental is too low to be radiated by the radiator (speaker).
This was one of our first innovations regarding the historical Baschet work. Under the advice and supervision of François himself, and cheered by the common joy of discovery, we decided to use wood blocks as a substitute for metal plates to function as the gum and make a portable hand-held percussion. We tried to respect François’ indication that the gum and clamped elements should have an equal total weight (at least not clamping a total amount of rods heavier than the gum), and luckily it offered a mild warm sound, since the wood filters the soundwaves according to a different impedance relationship with the metal rods. Again, these timbral qualities are distinctive from the other rod sounds, so it proves that the permutation approach allows for sound discoveries and informed sound design.