We speak to Austrian composer Stefan Fraunberger about his art on the soundtrack of Woodwind.
Your art is not only inspired by Indian Classical Music or tradition. Tell us about your influences ranging from Eastern Europe to the Middle East.
I lived in Romania… (There was) a phenomena that was mostly erased in “western civilizations” through 19th century manufactured products and notions of what’s popular, what’s traditional and what’s not. There was no more space for individual expression – just a space for a homogeneous sound of the masses.
I studied the sound of Arabic language. I wanted to understand the Qur’an as sound, not (just) as meaning. From that perspective it’s a great symphony. I know its haram to say that to Wahhabis or Salafi’s. The Qur’an is a great piece of music.
MTV was not interesting for me. Everything was totally boring, so then I came to listen to nature.
Having studied music in Vienna, why were you also interested in the language of Arabic and the effect of ancient languages on music?
I am trying to work with the state where consonants and vowels create embodied information in our perception. It’s something that happens before the rationalization of meaning enters (our mind). Each letter could be seen as a body – inside there’s something else… out of which something new can be created.
In Woodwind the santoor is an important instrument. Tell us what it means to you from your personal experience.
It underlines a love for Persian music since I heard it the first time. It means (many years ago) spending my last money on my first sojourn in Iran on a santoor, when I had no more cash because of international sanctions. So, I had to make my way with this santoor 1000 km further all the way to Pakistan to finally withdraw money from an ATM again. That is how much trouble my first santoor caused.
With the santoor there are so many possibilities of creating abstraction aside from the so called ‘popular heritage’ of this instrument. I’m discovering new ways each day.
On the role of Indian Classical Music in spiritualism and what we must beware of. Fraunberger underlines how Woodwind isn’t concerned with a cliche of the Oriental, but on the true power of music.
Naturally there is a big tradition of how to evolve through the practice of Indian Classical Music, but on the other hand the potential of the illusion of being ‘spiritually evolved’ is dangerous. Many Nazis were fond of tantric practices to spiritually evolve. There was even a Celtic Yoga sect developed for Hitler. Indian Classical Music has nothing to do with all of that, but we should keep in mind how certain western cultures try to reproduce this (Indian) culture and music for their very own (differing) purposes.
On music as a transforming power
It depends on how open the perception of the individual is. Turning things around we could say that the most powerful imagination of sound stretched out through space and time can’t be perceived by individuals being caged in isolation.
How would you describe the music philosophy of Bonifaz when he finally reaches the fulfillment he was striving for throughout Woodwind?
(At this point) The normative doesn’t function any longer and the settings for what’s real are disturbed. Suddenly the irrational aspects of sound are not blocked any longer. Bonifaz becomes a channel for things which are in fact normal, but they were initially blocked by indoctrinated realms.