Like a magician weaves a spell on his audience, musician Aurelio from Austria mesmerizes us with his music. As if complementing his mission, the weather, the clouds, even a few birds seem to synchronise the setting at the amphitheatre outside the Matrimandir at Auroville in Puducherry. It is the end of the year 2015 and Aurelio’s music troupe has spread out mingling with the audience to present one of their most breath-taking performances with different kinds of gongs and bells. A white swan is created signifying Raaga Hamsadhwani and two white birds in the sky cross the expanse as if adding mood to the tranquility as a prelude to the show. As the amphitheatre fills up with the sounds, the silence in between feels like the calm between two sets of waves in the sea. Manju Ramanan speaks to the superbly talented musician Aurelio on why good music casts a spell and his unique music store Svaram
Tell us about your name?
I have been working under my artistic /spiritual name Aurelio (A.C. Hammer) which came through a life changing experience of cosmic sound in the mid nineties.
Your association with Pondicherry and Auroville?
An inner vision brought me to Pondicherry between 1985/86, when I took first classes in Indian Classical Music and Metaphysics, for the first time when I also participated in a conference on “Healing in Evolution”. I later settled in 1991 in Auroville in Puducherry.
How does sound heal us?
The human organism basically always strives to maintain and establish harmony and has its inherent “homeo-static” selfhealing capacity. The sense of hearing not only opens and influences cognitive but also emotional layers, effects physical and even subtler ranges of the mind-body phenomena (as proven now through an extensive research into the effect of sound vibrations and music).
How did Svaram come about and what is its aim?
Svaram had emerged out of a socio-cultural development work project and a first local village cultural center. In brings together a few decades of my own explorations into the world of music and sound, which I have pursued since my teenage, and the need for craft and rural youth development and education. We had started with a few unemployed village youth and are now after 12 years providing employment and skill training for 40 young people We are aiming high and foresee now the establishment of a Campus for the Art, Craft and Science of Musical Instrument Building.
You have traveled extensively and have researched on music of aboriginal tribe? What is unusual about that organic music?
Yes I had spent almost 5 years visiting and exploring a diversity of aboriginal and indigenous cultures around the South Pacific and was taken by the ever-present and important role of music in the natural life (“from cradle to the grave”) of these tribal peoples and encountered there astonishing healing effects of sound.
What is your average day like?
In Auroville we aim at a balanced life so we give time for personal practise, body work, meditation, sports and art work and I feel fortunate to spend the early morning hours with this and also conduct or attend classes in the evening. During the ‘work hours’ I have to focus on the project management, spend time with clients, visitors, take extra time for innovation and new developments. Evenings in the main visiting season December – April also bring many cultural events and programmes.
Are you fond of Indian film music? Any songs or musicians that you listen to?
I am not very familiar and I don’t listen much to music but play it in different contexts and practise. But I am always surprised about the popularity of some of the songs, which then spread like waves over the whole nation, taking everyone in their spell.
Who are the Indian classical masters you listen to and why?
Indian Classical music through its age long history and practise is like a repository of the universal principles and values of music and is a sheer limitless ocean to explore and learn about. I’m deeply touched by vocal music, and have listened, often also live to many of the great masters of the genre. I am mesmerized by the original sound of Rudra Veena and Sarangi and its expert exponents, but also appreciate new experiments and crossovers in world music.
In Puducherry, you also have The Mother’s music – tell us about its significance?
In my perception The Mother’s music opens a different perspective into the realm of pure sound and intuitive playing especially as it has been played through the opening into higher planes of her spiritual experiences. Its
unconventional layering of melodic phrases, irregular rhythms, pulsations, harmonic progressions, and even the sound-scapes of the streets and environmental noises in the old recordings open a new vista into improvisational intuitive approaches to music.
Do you feel that a well -written song is uplifted by music? How important are lyrics to composition?
Not only in the ancient tradition, even today all three factors of melody, rhythm and word had to be in a balanced composition enhancing each other for the to appeal of the listener. But if music really wants to convey meaning, besides its sheer entertainment, it has to delve deeper into the art of bringing together the diverse strains which also reflect our feeling, physical and mental body respectively: we move and dance to the rhythm, we are touched and feel through the melody and grasp the story or image through the lyrics.
Do you visit the Middle East? Have you performed here?
I had recently been on a musicethnological study tour ion Iran and visited Oman in that respect, I occasionally pass through Dubai and Qatar on international flights. I recently had some students from Dubai and Abu Dhabi in Music therapy and in Sound Healing trainings and hope to be able to share some of this work also in the Gulf if I am invited.