audio - video
crystal voice duet
The waterphone, invented by Richard Waters between 1967 and 1970, has since evolved into a whole family of instruments resulting in to-day’s MegaBass Waterphone.
A steel resonator contains a small quantity of water which can be set in motion when you play the instrument holding it by its neck, giving birth to aquatic effects and variations of pitch. On its periphery, the flat tank of the resonator is provided with a number of vertical metal rods of various lengths which you most of the time rub with a bow and occasionally strike.
The invention of the Waterphone originated in the early sixties when Richard Waters, then a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts, discovered the Thibetan water percussion instruments. He later heard the Kalimba, an instrument of African origin also called thumb board. As a consequence, the idea of the Waterphone germinated in Waters’ mind. Historically, it can also be paralleled with the nail violin (also called nail fiddle or nail harmonica) invented in 1744. Like the glassharmonica and the musical saw, it belongs to the family of friction idiophones.
Its tone has often been compared to a whale’s song or to the sound of an acoustic synthetiser (some of its sound effects are definitely akin with those of the cristal Baschet) or to that of a water harp. Tom Waits describes it as “a cascading crystal waterfall of light amidst the songs of a whale”. Some composers such as Sofia Goubaïdoulina use it in their works.
A small industrial copy called Oceanharp is available on the market but its quality and possibilities can’t measure up with those of the original waterphones. These are only made to order, dated and signed by Richard Waters, as are most rare instruments played by Thomas Bloch (ondes martenot, cristal Baschet, glassharmonica, etc.).
Nail violin (or Nail Harmonica) - 1744
The MegaBass Waterphone megabass from Thomas Bloch (2009)