How to Support This Work


          The Chrysalis Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit arts and education organization, registered with the IRS as a nonprofit public benefit corporation. Currently, we are offering four items for sale to support the ongoing expenses of the Chrysalis New Music Studio. All contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. If you would like more information, please contact us at




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Kickstarter Article





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PTC Mathcad Article





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San Francisco Classical Voice Article




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We are pleased to announce that Cris Forster’s book,


Musical Mathematics: On the Art and Science of Acoustic Instruments,


is available at click New or Used.




Musical Mathematics is also available in more than 140 libraries throughout the US, and in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia.



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.


Publisher: Chronicle Books
Release Date: July 14, 2010
Hardcover, cloth case, and dust jacket
Sewn binding
8¾ x 11⅛ x 1.9 in
944 pp
16 color plates
249 figures
105 tables
4 bibliographies
8 appendices
Comprehensive index


Table of Contents  [PDF]

Look Inside!   [PDF]

Bibliography  [PDF]
Index  [PDF]


Seven Extensive Reviews  [PDF]
Thirteen Short Reviews  [PDF]


50+ Online PDF Citations



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Cris Forster with Chrysalis (1981)

Photo by Norman Seeff





We are pleased to announce the release of our

30th anniversary documentary:


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 work-in-progress.

          A Voyage in Music runs one hour. In addition, it includes another hour with full performances of eight pieces and a slideshow.









A Voyage in Music, a film by Eli Noyes and Heidi Forster.


DVD: $10.00.


Shipping and handling (in the U.S.): $5.00.



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A Bard With Two Lyres

Cris 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 acoustics.

          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…”

Sybill Mahlke


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Intoned Poems of Walt Whitman

A Composition by Cris Forster, 1976




● Privately 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 notations

   and performance practices.

● pp. 1–73: Musical score of the following eleven poems from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:

  1.  I celebrate myself, and sing myself

  6.  A child said What is the grass? fetching it to me with full hands

  7.  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 hunger

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 them

52.  The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains of my gab and my loitering

Score: $35.00.


Shipping and handling (in the U.S.): $10.00.



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Song of Myself: Intoned Poems of Walt Whitman, performed by Cris Forster.

CD: $10.00.


Shipping and handling (in the U.S.): $5.00.