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Spitfire Audio Crystal Bowls By Aska Matsumiya

Kontakt Instrument By Paul White
Published May 2024

Spitfire Audio Crystal Bowls By Aska Matsumiya

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5/5 Stars

Hosted by Kontakt or the free Kontakt Player and weighing in at 2.1GB, Spitfire’s Crystal Bowls features seven quartz singing bowls played by composer Aska Matsumiya. The bowls themselves are tuned to the notes of the C Major scale and have been sampled to allow them to be played chromatically. Unusually though, the bowls are tuned to A=432Hz, this purportedly being a ‘healing’ frequency, though Kontakt’s tune control easily brings them back to concert pitch if required. The recording took place in the Hackney Round Chapel, London in order to take advantage of its natural acoustic and to create the instrument’s IR‑based reverb.

The GUI is straightforward with level controls for each of the six playing types: Brushes, Soft, Sticks, Rubber, Plastic and Hot Rods. These may be mixed, though non‑applicable options are greyed out depending on the play mode selected. Above these are controls for attack, release, sample start offset and reverb. Four play modes are available at the bottom of the screen: Shorts, Longs (sustains), (tuning) Forks and Warps. Warps offers sounds processed using guitar pedals and granular treatments, while Forks appears to be the result of touching a vibrating tuning fork against the bowl so all beater options are removed. Depending on which play mode is selected, additional sub‑options are shown at the bottom of the screen. For example, select Long and you have further choices of Long, Swells and Rolls. While the sound from a crystal bowl can be close to a sine wave at times, playing with different beaters produces different overtones and nuances that create a unique character.

As you might expect, striking the bowls with various hard and soft beaters produces attacks of different sharpnesses followed by a natural decay, creating a sound that hints at ‘glass marimba meets music box’. Rubber beaters produce the softer tones while tapping with a hard beater creates a much sharper tone. However, the attack shape can be adjusted to make it softer. Some of the longer treatments, especially those in the Warp section, create a cascade of crystalline texture, some very pad‑like and well suited to ambient/relaxation styles as well as haunting cinematic scores. can conjure up anything from resonant, glassy hits to pads and drones, all with a wonderfully organic quality.

The effectiveness of this instrument depends very much on how you use it. Individual notes, if left exposed, decay and evolve in a very organic way, whereas playing anything too busy risks losing the ethereal character of the instrument unless you pick suitably short sounds, in which case you can use marimba or piano‑style playing techniques. There’s a useful range of tonalities available, and when you add in the sustained and warped sounds, you can conjure up anything from resonant, glassy hits to pads and drones, all with a wonderfully organic quality.