The Sound Magician

By Michaela Preiner

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

4.

September 2017

Concert
Translated by Victoria R. Yan

There are people with special talents. Some are sport aces, some communication experts who can strike up a conversation with anyone, and others masters of an instrument. We all know someone who is endowed with such a gift.

Then there are people who possess talents that cannot be compared with those of others. Ingmar Flashaar is one of them. He started taking piano lessons at age nine and continued until he was 19. As the son of Austrian parents, he grew up in Winterthur, Switzerland. It was not until much later that he moved to Vienna with his wife, Ketevan Sepashivili, a pianist. So to speak, to his motherland which had never been his home before.

Everything began with piano playing

The phenomenon of sound, which he was gifted with since his first attempts at the piano, did not leave him even after ending private piano lessons. He then acquired the craft as a piano technician, a profession that requires not only skilled fingers and ears but also unconditional love and devotion to the sound. For decades, he has been a sought-after specialist in the greatest concert halls in Austria and beyond, and is acquainted with various pianists from the jazz and classical world who are grateful for his work on their instruments.

However, the special talent that distinguishes Ingmar Flashaar from the others is his ability to refine sounds. He performs “sound refinement” on pianos, as well as on all other instruments presented to him. This does not involve mechanical handwork, such as tightening screws, fitting strings or re-adjusting tuning pegs. The “sound magician” manages to bring the best out of every instrument thanks to his energy. Anyone who watches him as he touches the instruments, feels them, stops for a moment and ponders, cannot imagine these interventions will finally become audible, and yet they are.

The energy that he transfers into the instruments actually heals their invisible wounds. Although you cannot see the wounds or the healing process, if you have played the instrument before and after its treatment, you can hear the striking differences. Musicians, who witnessed this on their instruments, showered him with praises.

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

Sound that can help people

“I have come to understand that ‘sound’ in my life is the means by which I can best express myself, and with which I can help people greatly” says the magician of sound. He took a step towards a different direction, and today, after many different additional training courses, he has discovered his skill and trained his talent so well that he became a true professional in every aspect of his work. To enhance a sound, to improve an instrument and to spread positive energy into the world with sound – that is what makes Ingmar Flashaar so unique. It is not a one-way street on which he moves.

In addition to his work “to ensure a good mood in the house” and to transform instruments to produce sounds that are indescribable, Ingmar Flashaar also plays concerts. In the Ruprechtskirche – the oldest church in Vienna – he can be heard frequently performing his special Light-Sound concerts. He appeared as a guest performer at the Kunsthaus Mürzzuschlag at the beginning of September 2017. With him he brought a gong and five crystal sound bowls from Silicon Valley. A Fazioli concert grand piano, which is stationed permanently in the Kunsthaus, was also put to use. As he wandered between the instruments, one was able to hear what “sound energy” actually meant and that the instruments he “plays” seemed to be living beings, to which he blows life into.

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

His instruments are like living creatures

The way he began by delicately swiping the big gong with a drumstick, without even making the slightest attempt to strike the beautiful Chinese instrument, was fascinating from the first second. Moreover, the various sounds he elicited from this instrument. One voice after another could be heard; voices like those of humans. Delicate and tranquil breathing, followed by feverish, lamenting, and agitated emotions – as if by magic, they seemed to have been freed from a metal enclosure second by second with the help of Ingmar. As the deep and powerful sounds of the gigantic gong – 95 centimeters in diameter – echoed through the hall, the ears of the audience were taken unawares. A mastering, masculine energy floated through the room; however it did not feel at all threatening. Highly concentrated, attentive and spellbound was his audience that you could hear a pin drop.

It was neither the skillfully mastered rhythm nor the melody which flowed through the hall. It was pure energy, which swept the bodies of the listeners away and placed them in a state that is rarely achieved in concerts. Through these magical moments it became clear that this musician and sound magician had found the key of access to his instruments, a key that has nothing to do with meter and melody. One gained the impression that this man, with his outstanding talent, freed a secret hidden energy, which seemed that he could easily call upon. Unleashed, released and at his disposal, he was able to spread a force that was both strengthening and incredibly reassuring at the same time.

The sound specialist then switched quietly and naturally to the piano after finishing his improvisation introduction on the gong. The Fazioli grand piano, which Flashaar was already familiar with through previous tunings on the instrument in Mürzzuschlag, waited majestically for his first touch. As if greeting an old friend, the artist approached the piano reverently and started with a sparkling run. Once again, there were some very special moments that went under the skin and touched the soul. By the repetition of a single note, which was crystal clear and articulate, he played an improvisation that reminded one of the musical styles of Arvo Pärt, Arnold Schoenberg, and Enrico Einaudi. As a delicate echo sounded back and forth through the hall, it became clear that he was able to produce goose bumps without needing to press more than ten keys. This single tone, with its very unique vibration, made all the tones before seem as if to be playmates which he had long left behind. He then, however, took them back with him on his journey, where they united once again. This moment could be compared to a situation where one sees a distinctive person in the midst of a crowd. He looks at this person involuntarily yet so intensely that it is possible to fully grasp the person’s essence within mere seconds. Without knowing who this person is, where he came from and where he is heading. He is a unique being, who at this moment unexpectedly transforms into the ambassador of humanity.

Ingmar Flashaar (Photo: European Cultural News)

From the chip production to the concert hall

Finally the crystal sound bowls, which completed Flashaar’s concert instruments, unsurprisingly proved to possess independent individualities of their own. There was a large, dominating sound bowl surrounded by four smaller bowls, all of which were endowed with their own unique sound qualities. “Usually silicon is melted into them. Since the crystal in which this is done must not have the slightest flaw, not even the slightest hairline crack, the bowls are examined carefully before their use. Those that I use have been acquired before further production.” They have come a long way from the US to Europe, and are now brought to sound by Flashaar’s hands. Tangible sound waves were created during the concert, comparable to healing hands, which can be felt during a tender massage. The sounds created by the milky-white bowls traveled through the ears then directly into the hearts of the audience. He flattered, calmed and brought them to a state of unquestionable trust. The warm and beautiful musical soundscape, beating with thriving energy, embraced the various sensations around them fearlessly.

After a final improvisation on the gong, with his head slightly lowered and his arms partly spread, Flashaar stood still in front of the instrument until the last audible sound had faded. It seemed as if he had summoned “it” back. “It” meaning the sound phenomena that was freed from its surrounding metal shells by him during this magical night. With its power, the audience was able to have a taste of the abundant experiences that Ingmar Flashaar had experienced throughout his life. He proved that the sounds created by energy were not only an aesthetic experience but also an energy that can touch the hearts of people.

“I would like to perform sound refinement on all the instruments of an orchestra. I know the great differences would positively influence the musicians.” This is one of the two wishes of the tall gentleman. His second wish, “I really desire to perform a Light-Sound concert in the Votivkirche.” His first vision “only” requires one person, who has the ability and willingness to refine multiple sound apparatus. The engagement of 400 good-willed people, who will have the chance to experience a relaxing ‘sound shower’, are needed in order to realize his second wish to perform in the Votivkirche.

One thing is for sure: whenever one or the other event takes place, we will be there to report about it.

The history behind the article:

I, Michaela Preiner, author of this article, noticed a distracting noise coming from inside my daughter’s Kawai grand piano some time ago. Several piano mechanics had tried to solve the problem, but in vain. Thankfully, the piano company Stingl recommended Ingmar Flashaar to me. After an hour of deep pondering and careful investigation of the instrument, he followed his intuition. Using a mechanical trick, he then removed an undefinable, small piece of wood which had been jammed at an inaccessible area under a string, therefore causing the noise. Everyone who once had their beloved instrument successfully repaired can imagine how overjoyed I was to have the problem solved.

As Ingmar Flashaar offered to perform sound refinement on my piano a few months later, I was somewhat skeptical. However, drastic differences of each key before and after his work were immediately audible. I could barely believe my ears. I was in awe of the new sound quality which filled the room whenever the instrument was played. Another feeling came to my mind: the feeling of a closer communication between the performer and the piano. Many musicians develop a strong bondage between themselves and their instrument. They become good or even best friends. Often one wants to do something special for their best friend to show appreciation for their friendship. The sound refinement was my special “something” for my grand piano. However, it returned the favor at the same time by its enchanting sounds that even helped me conquer performance blockades that I once used to have.

One may consider these statements non-verifiable. This reaction is not a stranger to me, as I once also felt the same way. However the immiscible sound quality, a privilege that I get to experience again and again since the sound refinement, speaks for itself. Touched and motivated by the various possibilities that the sound now offers me, I overcame my past shyness towards public performances and presently offer musical wellness sessions. I devote each session to a single individual, with the goal to pass on happiness and the magic of sound. It is a true privilege and blessing to have this piano in my life.

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