Woodwind film composer Stefan Fraunberger recently performed at Outernational Days in Romania, where he was interviewed by The Attic.
We pick out a few extracts which relates to our movie and the lead character, Bonifaz.
Fraunberger spoke about how he found deserted church organs in Romania, and a unique understanding on creating new music with them. While he says that he never intended to play this music for anybody, apart from those ‘animals’ hanging around the church, actually there is an incredible piece aptly designed for the most important scene in the film when Bonifaz encounters the source of his inspiration for the first time.
“I would never come to the idea of playing church organ music in its classical sense. So it’s a very weird thing to approach these forgotten sonic beasts as real individuals and not as functional tools. I mean it’s interesting to find natures very own patch and dialects within what went wrong. I never played these spaceships for anybody live, only for the few animals present there,” Fraunberger told The Attic.
This is his interesting take on finding these organs and the context of the music.
“It was around 7-8 years later when I came back, that I figured out consciously what that means in a sonic sense: there were all these organs here, left by Saxons who migrated to Germany, ran away to ‘Modern Talking’. These old objects are very interesting from the perspective of electronic music because they are like synthesizers.
“The organs didn’t get renovated since hundreds of years. So the whole mechanics of the instruments are still the same as in baroque times. Such fun things you hardly find in Austria, there are just a few specialized old music instruments played and guarded by rotten academics whereas the rest is modernized and the mechanics are replaced by boring electrics. In Ardeal’s deserted churches I was fascinated by working the original wooden mechanics, out of tune eaten by rats and time. Trying to find out about their condition I would work with their sounds in a way that resembles electronic music – generating an extraterrestrial sonic base within left space. These ruined old organ space-ships which are somehow “at the end of the world”, in villages that are abandoned, represent a sort of pre-modern future. I like the combination of the inherent archaic nature with my search for science fiction and alien sonics.”
The Persian and Indian Kashmiri instrument, the Santoor becomes central in the film, Woodwind just as it’s been for Fraunberger in his personal life. The character Bonifaz travels from the so-called west to the east in India where he discovers a new approach for his music. However this doesn’t fit into the typical clichéd experience of a westerner learning oriental music and exotic adventures. We learn about cultural appropriation which Fraunberger is passionate to dispel a particular myth.
“You might think that because I’m playing Santur, I want to use something which is theirs. That would be the immediate thought about cultural appropriation. In my point of view this is very wrong because if Persians would wear sneakers or play an electric guitar nobody’s complaining. This means we tend to make one culture exotic so it’s outside the universal colonial culture and the other culture just universal. Statements like ‘electronic music is universal’ are true to a certain extent but a Santur is universal as well, isn’t it?” asked Fraunberger.
The Attic then asked: So it’s a sort of positive discrimination?
“Yeah, exactly. As I said, if you don’t know something, it seems exotic. For me it’s very exotic to go to northern Germany or Scandinavia because I hardly know it. I lived in Romania and in Arab countries for a long time, so all of what I’m trying to express is part of my personal history and it’s normal for me. It’s more normal for me than to imitate the hegemonial styles of universal glory shining in every corner of this world.”
Finally, this is how The Attic described Fraunberger, the musician and his art:
Composer, sound performer but also a linguist speaking Arabic, Persian, Romanian with an inherent anthropological eye, Stefan is interested in the periphery, the ‘in between’ and the non-established cultural wonders; the ambiguity of language and sound alike. His unorthodox use of instruments like deserted church organs or dulcimers combined with his deconstructive, conceptual thinking make him one of the most interesting, unconventional artists I’ve listened in quite a while.
You can read the full interview on The Attic’s feature The Purgatory of Meaning here.