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In Conversation
with Jean-Claude Chapuis
Falcon 3

Jean-Claude Chapuis' passion for glass instruments has resulted in a completely unique ensemble: the Glass Orchestra. A stunning and one-of-a-kind collection of hand-made glass instruments revealing an otherworld of ethereal, mysterious, and wholly unique sounds and timbres. Discover the work of a lifetime, in an interview conducted from the breathtaking premises of the Philarmonie de Paris.

A Background Unlike Any Other

Contrary to what one might think, Jean-Claude Chapuis had no formal musical training, he’s totally self-taught – but important meetings shaped his musical development, like the one with his professor of evolutionary history Jacques Roger prompting him to delve deeper into his research on glass instruments, starting with the glass armonica.

From an early age, Jean-Claude Chapuis was passionate about timbres and sounds, and obsessed with the idea of creating his own sound machines. As a music lover, he was constantly listening to music, taking his main inspirations from Russian musicians, but also Ravel, and more globally Orchestral music.

The fusion of his musical inspirations, and his discovery of glass sounds at the Medrano circus where the clowns used household objects like glasses and bottles, gave birth to a fantastic idea: why not a Glass Orchestra?
A Lifetime Obsession

All those childhood ideas and dreams didn't come true in just a few months. It took Jean-Claude Chapuis many years and a wealth of professional experience to bring the Glass Orchestra project to reality. In his thirties, while he had responsibilities organizing concerts and festivals as a cultural director, he decided to take a break, to build his own Glass Orchestra.

He delved back into physics, chemistry and acoustics to start from scratch. He really had to start from zero, and that’s how his passion emerged. He began with the building of the glass Armonica, and decided to continue by building the whole Glass Orchestra, which resulted in more than 20 years of work.

A Path Strewn With Pitfalls

Through the years, experiments, and performances with his glass instruments, Jean-Claude Chapuis realized that glass instruments had various limits and difficulties. First of all, the difficulty of tuning glass instruments. Indeed, it was done with liquid, and when it’s hot, it evaporates, and the instruments go out of tune.

The second difficulty was that performers have to wet their fingers and more around the glasses, which takes up space. As you can only play chords of 4 notes, the harmonic play is quite poor. Benjamin Franklin's research had the target to make glass music more harmonic, and gave birth to a system of bells that allows playing up to 10 notes at a time, which was a revolution, because this instrument offers something more than just playing with the glasses.

Transmission As The Heart Of The UVI Glass Orchestra

Making Glass Orchestra available as a virtual instrument, thanks to the UVI team, was a logical continuation of Jean-Claude Chapuis's work.

Much more than just collectors items, glass Instruments are a new way to listen to the music, without really knowing where it comes from, and where it goes. They constitute a very new sound space, very large, vast and rich, that appears and disappears very delicately at the same time.

Transmitting these glass instruments to the wider world was the culmination of the mission that has sustained the life of Jean-Claude Chapuis. Now it's up to the new creators to develop other instruments, and to compose for them!

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