The narrative feature film Woodwind (2018) follows the character Bonifaz, a composer who’s frustrated with the music industry and travels to India for new inspiration.
His journey to India is also affected by his relationships with three women and how he understands the incredible “coincidences” he experiences with them. Ultimately, we discover how these personal influences shape the approach to his music.
Instead of boasting about his unique talent on a prestigious stage such as Carnegie Hall, we find Bonifaz humbly playing the santoor instrument on the streets of Varanasi and learning about the true value of art.
We can enjoy a glimpse of this world and the movie in the film’s official music video ‘The Great Game’ which was composed and performed by the Woodwind soundtrack artist Stefan Fraunberger himself. The music video features the actor playing Bonifaz in the film Leandro Taub, as well as Fraunberger behind the scenes.
Here the Austrian musician talks about his experience on the set of the film. In the music video below you can notice him wearing the same costume as the character Bonifaz.
“I would have loved to eat some paan with beetle nut (during the filming) but we were too busy (with the music). It felt somehow good to perform in the street and do the sonic stuntman for Bonifaz. Besides, I think Leandro (Taub) did a great job acting the slightly Borderlined composer. And (cinematographer) Nicolas (Joray) was really doing a fantastic camera for all of this,” said Fraunberger.
The soundtrack composer was making reference to the mysterious events Bonifaz felt in India, some of which might be interpreted as a personality disorder, or experiences beyond our five senses of perception. Woodwind is interested in how these feelings are channeled by the musician into sound as a natural or transcendental force.
We learn how Fraunberger and director Fin Manjoo helped shape this aspect of Bonifaz, and then later the musician remained in Varanasi (during the film editing period) to continue his work on the soundtrack. Through the research and into the filming, Manjoo learnt from Fraunberger’s authentic experiences as a young composer, dealing with similar challenges as a musician. Though, the personal story of Bonifaz written by Manjoo is fictional.
“I just had the idea for this scene as I was working with street noise and instruments before. But I just used field recordings (up to this stage of the shoot in Woodwind). So, I thought it might be nice to do it (the music performance) right in the centre on the street while turning all the cliches upside down,” said Fraunberger.
The musician is making reference to Woodwind‘s depiction of Varanasi which is different to what we are used to from Western media. In terms of the music, the story highlights how the roots of the approach to authentic Indian music is inspiring the most advanced composers in contemporary times. From a cultural perspective Woodwind avoided the cliched depiction of India in cinema. Although it was an honest artistic choice, ironically the film industry itself is largely interested in those cliches. So, while Woodwind can be interpreted as naturalism in art, it remains out of the mainstream perspective.
“I think (Varanasi) is a rather provincial town crowded with religious madness. Not exactly the place in India to be. (There are) too many cliches and too many tourists blended by Orientalist cliches of western illusions of India. But there is a special energy around as it has been a ritual site for transformational processes between here and after for several thousands of years. All in all it’s a conservative but strange place,” said Fraunberger.
Writer Fin Manjoo chose Varanasi because he wanted to set the film in locations that remained largely the same for centuries. Bonifaz is a character who attempts to tune himself into the sensory power of the ancients (where they had a stronger sense due to their connection with nature as opposed to machines), and in being an artist who’s naturally part of this process and not an egocentric individual. The music video is structured in an interesting fashion between the world of the character Bonifaz in the film Woodwind and the ‘real’ performance of Fraunberger on ‘The Great Game’ soundtrack piece behind the scenes on the same movie.
“I am truly thankful to all people involved for having investigated this scene. We made the recordings on the street in Benares and later, after the Woodwind crew left to South Africa, I rented an old Mughal flat right on the ghats to record in an inspired atmosphere. Actually, what we hear in the music video was recorded in the flat overlooking the Ganga. I recorded on the Kashmiri santoor (in Varanasi). Quite good stuff,” said Fraunberger.
“It’s a very sensitive and gentle instrument. Using a self invented technique I tried to (make it) sound like recent electronic music but didn’t use any electronics – just the microphones, two sticks and the santoor. By emphasizing the sonic possibilities with a minimalist approach you’ll reach similar immersive structures as electronic music but slightly more organic. In the end we are listening with electronic means. So, we shouldn’t be blind about the feedback between us and the worlds nervous system, called electricity.”
Release details for the soundtrack and Fraunberger’s compositions are expected to be revealed soon. The DVD and Blu-ray of the film, Woodwind (2018) can be bought here.