The Works: Soma Sound Sculptures

The Works: Some Sound Sculptures – we visit the village of Rehetobel, Switzerland, to see how handpans are made. Special thanks to Sherri James who shoots the amazing, cinematic video for this series.

Some years ago I was asked to host a show called Handmade Music on the DIY Network. It was a good fit – without the talent of a Carnegie Hall-level musician, my classical piano degree had helped to keep my construction skills up to snuff. I “got” both music and how things were built. Every week, we visited an artisan’s workshop and they led us through the process of creating a one-of-a-kind musical instrument.

The show was more interesting and more fun than any job should be – in it, we covered cajun accordions in Eunice, LA; we shadowed builders at the Chicago School of Violin Making; and got the low-down on Dudenbostel guitars from Lynn himself. Unfortunately, the 40-some episode series eventually came to an end because, I was told by network execs, the audience was only a few hundred thousand die-hard fans. Enough for the interweb, maybe, but not for network television selling ads. Soon after, reality TV subsumed even my beloved DIY Network, and how-to shows went the way of YouTube.

It’s always been in the back of my mind give that series new life as an online entity. If only for my own curiosity, I wanted to get back to seeing artisans practice their hard-won skills to turn raw materials into works of art. I’m tentatively calling this new series The Works.

As a pilot, I couldn’t have asked for a better subject than Daniel Bernasconi of Soma Sound Sculptures. Not only is the process of making his handpans interesting to watch, but the instruments are mystically enchanting when played. With some help from his partner, Ana Paz, and her artistic touches, Daniel’s “flying saucer” handpans become even more stunning with intricately-designed etchings. And Daniel’s story, from banker to traveler to artisan, is inspiring as well. Late in the day, we follow Daniel to a high hill on the edge of Rehetobel where he puts on an impromptu concert, flooding the valley with a meditative, late-afternoon melody.

This is what we hope to achieve with The Works: To tell the stories of artisans and their work, demystifying the processes they use in their creative endeavors, while taking the viewer to new, interesting places. And we’ve decided that while we will cover many musical instruments, we will also seek out other interesting subjects like the second video in our series, where we visit Saint Croix, Switzerland, and the atelier of automata-maker-extraordinaire, François Junod.

Watch, comment, and subscribe. We want to hear what you’d like to see covered in the new series. If you are an artisan or know of someone who creates unique objets d’art, anywhere in the world, let us know – we want to highlight your story! And I’m also open to title suggestions…please weigh in. Enjoy and stay tuned for more!