Research and Tradition

The project was based on an in-depth ethnographic research. This began with the study of the profile of the Saxon community, consulting the existing historical, anthropological and ethnographic documentation. The Saxon communities still existing in Romania were then mapped and the main cultural centers of the community were visited: Sibiu, Sighișoara and Malancrav. Two villages were therefore identified as a case study, Saschiz and Viscri, both UNESCO heritage. Here, interviews with community members were made, collecting memories and testimonies on how traditions are passed on through generations. Members of the Saxon communities have worked with the team to collect sounds and songs of the local tradition. records have been made of voices from the community as well as of music played with traditional instruments.
Officina Sonora has then identified artisans who still work with wood as in the past decades, namely those making musical instruments and they have worked together to create the two sound sculptures which are the main result of the research.

The most innovative aspects of the work concerned the conjugation between ethnographic research and the creation of native material. The research, in fact, has made it possible to act in a philological way, respectful of the community’s heritage, avoiding cases of “invention of traditions”. At the same time, it made it possible to “create new cultural heritage”, representing a limited but virtuous example of how identity can be preserved and made present in today’s world. 

The exhibition returned to the communities themselves the control of their own tradition, because the exponents of the community were not passive subjects of the project, but an active part of it. Officina Sonora’s work with the Saschiz and Viscri communities was not so much a form of dialogue with a group of people providing knowledge and one that translated it into a cultural product, but rather one of cooperation. The work of Officina Sonora has served above all as a stimulus to keep a community tradition alive by means of producing new handcraft in the respect of tradition.

The recovery of the tradition of a cultural minority in a European country is important to demonstrate the plurality of instances that have contributed and contribute to forming the European identity. Communities are not closed within the borders of a State and the presence of Saxons in Romania has made the artistic heritage, the urban profile, the sound tradition of some areas of Transylvania peculiar and very rich. Architecture and craft traditions are visual expressions of the cultural heritage of the Saxon community which are already well known and appreciated, while the sound dimension of their culture is still little known, yet, it has contributed very much to the development of the region’s musical tradition, through instruments such as the organ.

Recovering the sounds and showing how the craftsmanship is combined with musical expression shows us the fruit of community work and the impact it has had on the microcosm of the settlement region.
The fact that the Saxon communities are disappearing makes the rediscovery of their culture essential in a historical perspective of recovery of the traditions that have fueled the construction of European identity. The changes in the demographic composition of the territories are physiological, but keeping alive the memory of the distribution of European cultural components even beyond the borders of the nation states demonstrates the continuous contamination that constantly occurs among peoples, customs, traditions, languages.