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Francisco Classical Voice Article
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pleased to announce that Cris Forster’s book,
Mathematics: On the Art and Science of Acoustic
is also available in
140 libraries, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
The British Library, Juilliard, Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale,
Columbia, MIT, New York
Public Library, University of Chicago,
Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, San
Francisco Conservatory of Music, five U.C. campuses, etc.
Musical Mathematics is the
definitive tome for the adventurous musician. Integrating
mathematics, music history, and hands-on experience, this
volume serves as a comprehensive guide to the tunings and
scales of acoustic instruments from around the world. Author,
composer, and builder Cris Forster illuminates the
mathematical principles of acoustic music, offering practical
information and new discoveries about both traditional and
innovative instruments. With this knowledge readers can
improve, or begin to build, their own instruments inspired by
Forster’s creations shown in the 16 color plates. For those
ready to step outside musical conventions and those whose
curiosity about the science of sound is never satisfied,
Musical Mathematics is the map to a new musical world.
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Cris Forster with Chrysalis (1981)
Photo by Norman Seeff
pleased to announce the release of our
30th anniversary documentary:
A VOYAGE IN MUSIC
A film by Eli Noyes and Heidi Forster, 2006
This film is a retrospective of Cris Forster’s work over the past
thirty years. It presents an overview of the creative life of this
prolific musical instrument builder, writer, composer, and
performer, and features insightful interviews with Mr. Forster and
Chrysalis Ensemble musicians. The documentary also includes detailed
chapters and performances on all seven original instruments tuned in
just intonation, descriptions of all the music he has composed to
date, and a discussion of his book, Musical Mathematics: On the
Art and Science of Acoustic Instruments. The film is a lively
mix of history, theory, philosophy, and thoughtful commentary on the
field of acoustic music.
The Chrysalis Foundation
is proud to support the work of this modern musical master. We will
use A Voyage in Music as an educational tool and for audience
development. This documentary substantiates the importance of
raising funds to support the self-publication of Musical
Mathematics and the production of Ellis Island/Angel Island:
A Vision of the American Immigrants, Mr. Forster’s current
A Voyage in Music
runs one hour. In addition, it includes another hour with full
performances of eight pieces and a slideshow.
in Music, a film by Eli Noyes and Heidi Forster.
handling (in the U.S.): $5.00.
REVIEW FROM THE BERLIN MUSIC
With Two Lyres
Forster with “For Eyes and Ears” at the Academy
Berlin, January 25, 1980 — Der Tagesspiegel
The fascination with Walt
Whitman, the singer of America, of mystical nature, of democracy,
equality and the central poetical “I,” the avower also of
homosexuality in the age of the American cult of manhood, the
fascination with this poet of the nineteenth century has taken hold
of the twentieth. Although long recognized as world literature, he
is to this day difficult to grasp and fully comprehend, although he
was and is beloved, a poet who makes disciples, and yet the experts
cannot agree on a definitive critical edition of all his works.
Since the experiences of the Second World War, Walt Whitman’s
idealism, his humanity, his transcendental and emotional lyricism,
has again brought him close to many people. Among musicians, he has
been set to music by such diverse natures as Paul Hindemith (“When
Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed”), Leonard Bernstein with a poem
in the “Songfest,” and now — Cris Forster.
In the musical program of
“For Eyes and Ears,” a persuasive exhibition in the Academy of the
Arts, Cris Forster’s performance, an art of stillness and
concentration, succeeded in overcoming a not too insignificant
daytime handicap: noise from the lobby, during free admission to a
very popular exhibition, penetrated loudly into the foyer despite a
closed sliding door.
Here they stood —
Forster’s instruments/works of art, which he himself designed and
built in San Francisco and San Diego: one, dominated by a rotating
spruce wheel with 82 strings on each side, which he calls
“Chrysalis,” as well as a rectangular one with 48 strings; both
instruments tuned according to mathematical principles to achieve
desired melodies and harmonies.
Cris Forster, born in
1948 in Brazil, lived for a time in Berlin during the fifties, then
went to the USA. He has been a musician, piano tuner, and finally
coworker of Harry Partch, whose instrumentarium he built, tuned,
repaired, and supervised. He is self-taught in mathematics and
From Walt Whitman’s life
work, Leaves of Grass, which grew from twelve poems privately
published in 1855 to nearly 400 in 1891–92, Cris Forster selected
for his performance eleven from the third book, “Song of Myself.”
A modern bard, perhaps
also a Whitman priest, whose interpretation constitutes a nexus
between the centuries, Forster begins and ends with, “I celebrate
myself,” and the whole is naturally a self-celebration of the artist
(as is probably the interesting, if debatable, concept of “service
to the work”), but with a strong artistic impression as well.
Because the singer has nuances (intoning, Sprechgesang with
outbursts, a critical questioning character in dynamic forte, a kind
of rhythmic chanting, pure speech), that illuminate, elucidate, and
revere Whitman’s word and thought in a most captivating manner.
In addition: a mysterious
set of strings, stroked with bare hands; changes in pitch within a
narrow range, scales in which voice and instrument proceed in paced
uniformity, chords with stressed keynotes, dissonant arpeggios
(“Enough,” No. 38), or such that melodically conjure up a sphere of
dreams (“Happiness,” No. 50.). As if from a distance come the quiet
bright sounds in the song of poem No. 6, which imparts the following
about Whitman’s conception of the world: “A child said What is the
grass? fetching it to me with full hands. How could I answer the
child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be
the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I
guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord…”
SONG OF MYSELF
Poems of Walt Whitman
Composition by Cris Forster, 1976
published performance score for Chrysalis and Harmonic/Melodic Canon
tuned in just intonation, and Voice.
● High quality printing on archival paper; 11 × 14 in
● Laminated cover.
● Wire binding.
● pp. i–xi: Detailed tuning charts for Chrysalis and
Harmonic/Melodic Canon; and detailed descriptions of instrument
and performance practices.
● pp. 1–73: Musical score of the following eleven poems from Walt
Whitman’s Song of Myself:
I celebrate myself, and sing myself
A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
18. With music strong I come, with my cornets and my drums
19. This is the meal equally set, this the meat for natural
21. I am the poet of the Body and I am the poet of the Soul
34. Now I tell what I knew in Texas in my early youth
38. Enough! enough! enough!
50. There is that in me ― I do not know what it is ― but I
know it is in me
51. The past and present wilt ― I have fill’d them, emptied
52. The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of
my gab and my loitering
handling (in the U.S.): $10.00.
Myself: Intoned Poems of Walt Whitman, performed by Cris
handling (in the U.S.): $5.00.