When did you first get involved in the making of instruments?
I started in Australia, Sydney in 1984 and I learned to make a clay flute from a Japanese monk. In Sydney I was part of a community that crafted different items by hand only. After returning to Austria I continued to make different kinds of sound items, I was the first one to craft wind chimes in my home country. In the late 80ies, I organized with a group of people markets for arts and crafts in old castles and towns. I continued crafting wind chimes, I had for example a range that were tune after the “I Ching”, the oldest of the Chinese classics, also known as the oracle book. This was the point when I connected sound with a knowledge, this is where for me the magic started.
How did Svaram come to be?
I was in performing arts with the Auroville Dance Lab, I worked as a musician and actor but after some time I had enough. So I founded a cultural center in the village, called Mohanam in 2002. At the time the rate of unemployment was 60%. And one of the boys Karthik, he always helped me to restore instruments, always bugged me that we could build a company to make instruments. So at some point I went to the US to a Congress and I met a friend of mine that complained that he needed someone to build him a particular instrument. So I said we can do that for you in South India for 100 Dollars. So I returned with this money saying that we have our start up fund. But what I have to say is that our project was made possible with the help of Volunteers. We had a German guy with us, Matthias, who did a pilot project with Karthik for 6 months crafting these singing stones, that we still sell. Anyway after the 6 months we had a final exhibition and in one day we sold everything. So from that point onwards it was impossible for me to say no, we can’t continue. I then started working with Jan who is an experiences carpenter to train young adults from the surrounding villages. Together we kind of did a three year training for the building of instruments, with Physics and math classes, musicology and computer science and so on. In the end everyone had to craft an instruments and Svaram was born.
Take us through your design process.
This is a tricky one. It’s a mixture of ideas that I have, Jan’s inventive talent and the talent of the guys who work with us. Furthermore we have many Volunteers with different knowledge passing by who teach us how to manufacture for example drums from Africa, Bamboo flutes and so on, these are kind of co-creations.
What are your favorite materials to use?
For me the beauty is actually that because we are experimenting with sound that we use all kinds of materials. Wood is mainly our base, different types of metal, natural materials like Bamboo, stones but for me the future is glass.
What is your favorite instrument that you ever designed?
I love string instruments.
How does Auroville influence your work and business?
I would not do all this if it wouldn’t be for Auroville. I got offers to create a campus, like the one we are planning, in France and South Korea, but I simply refuse. This all only make sense because I do it in Auroville in connection with the Integral Yoga of Mother and Sri Aurobindo. I do this to explore and discover the sound and tunes in regard to the transformation that is the core of the Yoga, I need this as an inspiration. And of course the social factor of Auroville, the people I work with, to make a change. If Auroville wouldn’t be here I think I would sit in a cave.
You are working on a musical campus. What is your vision behind that?
It will be a Campus for the Craft, Arts and Science of Sound. My vision is to create an international hub for the research of building new instruments. In this regard I am working together with people from all over the world to discover and research the impact of sound and tunes in healing – also known as psychoachoustic.
Living in Auroville means…
constant progress. I still love this idea of Auroville being a laboratory, where we all experiment and do our part. And I feel it is okay that it bubbles, smokes and sometimes even explodes, it is worth the work for making a change and transforming something.
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.