If I had known before where this path would lead me I would not have thought it possible. Thanks at this point to all those who fathomed the great dimension of sound before me and who kept throwing me snippets of this universal knowledge so that I could compile my own collection of sound experience from it.
It all started when, at some point during my adolescence in the mid-1970s, I discovered the music world that was developing so wildly at the time. I was fascinated by the sound worlds of music groups such as Hawkwind, Jethro Tull, Blind Faith, King Crimson, Genesis, Nice, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Deep Purpel, Yes and subsequently Keith Jarret, Return to Forever and Chick Corea and began to paint and translate the sounds into shapes and colours. These times gave me access to completely new, enraptured, fantastic worlds. These worlds were worth so much to me that I neglected school more and more with stubborn rote learning and soon left it altogether without graduating.
The end of the 1970s was a time of great social upheaval. The re-establishing fascist structures in politics and the economy were challenged by the wild hippie youth to look at what was going wrong, and the first ecological thoughts and currents took off, which are now recognised worldwide. At the same time, there were movements that wanted to end these injustices with massive violence (RAF). During this time, we as young people experienced the massive occupation of our country by US troops and that drugs were flowing into the country in large quantities. After several friends lost their lives in this turmoil, I decided to take up the pro-life principle. Since then, I have put my strength and love into the service of arts and crafts as a means of political work. Since then, I have stood with my whole life and work for greater mindfulness and vigilance of humanity. As a child I spent a lot of time in nature and learned about love and connection with the elements, plants and animals. With my choices at a young age, my path was filled with influences to further this principle - the path of sound began. This decision was to become the most persistent driving force through all the ups and downs of my instrument making and self-employment.
The first dimension came when I did my civilian service (instead of military service) for 18 months in an SOS Children's Village at the end of the 70s. In addition to the caretaker work, there was a carpentry workshop, a lathe, an enamel workshop and a pottery area. In these workshops I was able to work intensively with the different materials after work, get to know them and experience how materials transform and take on new forms. There were no teachers and no tasks, only creativity.
Inspired by this world of handicrafts, intuitive work and creative natural art, I built my first own workshop in 1980 in the midst of the great "Back to Nature" movement. Communities were being founded everywhere, organic goods, crafts and food were being produced, "alternative" rural life was being tried out. The movement wanted to change something: Climate and environmental destruction, water scarcity and manipulation of food and land were already being admonished at that time.
New dimensions still had something in store for me and my sedentariness was abruptly interrupted, so I was once again to realign my forks in the road. Something in me suggested "When to emigrate, if not now". And so I sold everything I had and packed the most important things into my VW bus: drawing tools, woodworking tools, car repair tools, a kitchen and a place to sleep and sent the bus by ship to the USA, where there were already quite a few living communities back then.
So I ended up with my bus after a long journey across the USA in the Rocky Mountains at the first Rainbow festivals and further festivals of communities in many extremely remote areas of the West, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State, Arizona, Colorado. There I experienced mostly nature, largely untouched nature and music in sessions and in many circles where I went music was being made. This was probably my most intense initiation into sound. But apart from the discoverer, there were also the old preventers: as a good German you have to have learned everything and I hadn't learned any instrument and there were many people sitting in a circle making music and I was in the middle of it. After a while I suddenly had a drum between my legs and was playing it. I was scared, what was I doing? Does that sound good? You can't do that at all! And I was already out of the rhythm. Oops. Forget it - keep going and there it was again. What was that? Every time I wanted to understand what was happening, I lost the rhythm and when I surrendered to the flow of body and movement, I was there again. This experience was so special, it was as if my hand was being guided by someone. I was being played, this was not little me, this was bigger. My first conscious contact with the spirit of music, the higher power, intuition, or what should I call it? What the heck - I kept looking for this connection ever since and each time the certainty grew that it would work, sometimes better - sometimes worse. Since then I can play most musical instruments intuitively with great joy, because I just let go and let the instrument and the invisible hand play, I am just the tool.
And with that, my path grew again and was filled with a vision. The next thing that happened was that I saw someone sitting on a meadow in the middle of a festival with a box on his lap, playing gently rhythmically and melodiously at the same time - I had never seen such an instrument before. A wooden box with different curved reeds on it. I was never to know who brought this instrument into the world, but at this point I would like to thank this artist from the bottom of my heart. Of course, there are many models in many cultures, the most direct being the Aztec in Mexico called Teponatzli with over 2 tones, but who translated this form into a box with many tones?
Later on my trip to San Francisco, I discovered such an instrument quite worn out at a flea market in Sausolito and I bought it for $10. Since then, this slit drum was with me on all my journeys and I got to know it. Back in Germany and pretty much burnt out, everyone I showed this box to was as amazed about the sound and the possibilities as I was back then on the meadow and I remembered my abilities for - art - handicraft - intuition and started to research at friends in a 12m chicken house, which was converted into a workshop, why this box sounds and after a few attempts the first drum was finished. About 100 pieces were to follow, I needed money to live.
I quickly found enthusiastic people at flea markets and craft fairs, but also in kindergartens, and soon I had enough together for my second research trip.
Summer autumn and winter 1984 and spring 85 I spent travelling again in the Americas, working as a caretaker, electrician, tree planter, repairing houses, picking fruit. In the south of Mexico, in Chiapas and in Guatemala, I discovered the sounds of the marimba, which was played in many villages, and then often sat in my palapa in Panachachel and painted pictures of the tropical landscape, of plants, volcanoes and Mayan ruins, which I visited on short trips and whose beauty fascinated me.
In the summer of 1985 I was back in Germany and devoted myself to instrument making with renewed vigour, I was ready to settle down, to stay, I had had enough of "being on the road" and started a family in 1986, because my son was on the way. In 1988 my daughter followed, after we had moved into an old farmhouse with a larger workshop.
In these first years of my workshop under the name Boing (Boehme Ingo = Bo-Ing) there were quick touches with the freshly awakened music therapy movement and my slit drums were successfully used in playing with "non-musicians", as an intuitive means of expression and for interactive encounters. Many impulses came back from there and my instruments developed rapidly, more and less tones/tongues, bigger, different shapes up to the lying slit drum with 20 tones and a length of up to 1.80 m and to lie on. I also developed the first slotted drums that were tuned. At the same time, more and more dealers became aware of my slit drums and so I began to sell my instruments to the trade.
The next stage was that I got to know other musical instrument makers at festivals who were caught up in the same zeitgeist and dedicated themselves to the subject of "intuitive sound" in a different way. These were mainly Peter Hokema, the German kalimba maker who today sets the highest international standards and whose company is already in its second generation, and Eckart C. Schulz of E.C.S Steeldrums, who made steel drums in different sizes. So we got together and I started to include these instruments in my programme and to sell them.
From 1990 onwards, I exhibited at many arts and crafts fairs, eco-fairs and at the music fair in Frankfurt, which quickly earned me an international reputation, and from then on my drums were also sold by kindergarten and teaching aid distributors.
In 1996, I moved from the village to the city of Giessen with much larger production rooms and a showroom where many customers came from far away to try out the instruments, which were still very rare at the time, and to get advice. The company was rebranded and reoriented under the name "Boehme music". In the summer there was a competition for "new instruments for music therapy" organised by the University of Hamburg as part of the International Music Therapy Congress, and I won second prize.
In 1997 I began to work with stringed instruments and soon I made my first monochords, which I didn't even know were called monochords. A short time later I handed over the production to a long-time employee, who from then on expanded the instrument production on his own under my company in the former cigar factory Rinn & Cloos in Heuchelheim in new rooms. During this time, more and more instruments were created from my pen and in my design, which I had him build. This separation from production allowed me to devote myself to the rapidly growing distribution of all the many instruments that fitted so wonderfully with my concept of "intuitive musical instruments - music without notes".
In 1999, rather exhausted, I took a sabbatical year and accompanied my co-workers on the road. My self-imposed sabbatical conditions were - not to have a home for one year and not to go to work for one year. (I was on the road again) From today's point of view, quite a risk, but it turns out that this allowed me to prepare myself well for a new level of the company, to gather strength and to vision new horizons through distance, which the short-sightedness of everyday life would have denied me.
In January 2000, I met the instrument makers Odell Borg of High Spirits and Bob McNally of Strumsticks at the Namm Show in Los Angeles. I immediately bought some instruments, flutes and strumsticks, and took them on a little trip to the desert in "Death Valley". For four days I explored this unique desert area alone with the new instruments and played with the echoes of the rocks and mountains. On the last day it rained for the first time in years in the driest area of North America and I heard the coyotes singing and howling at night in the freshly formed pools of water. Since then I have been deeply and lovingly attached to these two instrumental genres.
The sabbatical year and the distance from everyday business life released the greatest creativity for a completely new theme in the coming years. The world of monochords. In 2003, together with my new partner Martina Gläser, two new instruments were created, Klangwelle and Klangstuhl. We combined my knowledge as an instrument maker and her knowledge as a body therapist and created these unique pieces of sound furniture that are popular all over the world today. They can be found on all continents and are used successfully in many clinics.
In 2005 we got married and gave our relationship and bond in sound a new framework.
In 2006 I went to the USA again and travelled with our US partner (feeltone distributor since 1998) and old friend Gabriele Schwibach to a Sound Healing Congress in Santa Fe, New Mexico and to a music therapy conference in St. Louis. During the days of travelling we reinvented the distribution of feeltone in the USA and set big goals.
In 2007, feeltone in Heuchelheim hosted the first and unfortunately only "Festival for Creative Sound", where many sound and music therapists from Europe gave workshops and concerts on and with our instruments. The unforgettable kick-off took place in the swimming pool in Aßlar in a thermal pool.
In 2008 we made a trip to the University of Arizona to meet Barbara Crowe, one of the most important music therapists in the American music therapy scene.
In 2009 we organised our first Klangzeit, where we make music with up to 17 people over 24 hours, without everyday language and only the most necessary food. This will take place annually from now until 2020.
In 2009/10 we travelled to Mexico, Baja California to explore the sound of dolphins and whales and then to Palenque and Mexico City and investigated the origin of the first slit drums of the Teponatzlis. One of these Tongue Drums stands in the former pyramid temple "Templo Mayor", the stones of which were used to build the large cathedral of Mexico City right next to it, which was built in 1524.
In 2010, directly after the Mexico trip, the cooperation with the workshop of my former co-worker under our company was terminated and we rebuilt the production with my old companion Kjell Anderson from Auris in Järna, Sweden. The countless long journeys to Sweden resulted in the many new instruments that we still build unchanged today. After the separation from the old production it was high time to take into account the growing knowledge about sound of the last years and so completely new sound bodies and designs were created. During this time I developed the two bestsellers Monolini and Monolina. In addition, the large monochords and the Klangwelle underwent important improvements. And we commissioned another company near Greifswald to manufacture our instruments for us.
In the course of these immense internal changes and against the backdrop of the global economic crisis of 2008-2011, which at that time turned the entire economic world upside down, at least of small companies, we moved privately to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2011, just off the island of Usedom on the Peene River. It was one of those rare windows of opportunity where you can make such quantum leaps. We deliberately sought the neighbourhood of the Lebensgemeinschaft of Klein-Jasedow, which has also been dedicated to music, music therapy and the healing arts for decades. This is where the famous Sona Gongs have been made for years and where music therapists are trained.
In 2012, we then had to move the whole company to Lassan-Pulow in the neighbouring village of Klein-Jasedow, as the plan for Boehme music to continue to operate independently as a distribution company in Heuchelheim unfortunately did not work out. The upheavals were too great. So we built the warehouse and office in the old, very dilapidated halls of a former LPG farm - the workshop was to follow. In the same year, I travelled to Denver, Colorado, USA in October to give a first workshop on the monochord and met our current colleague and feeltone teacher Joule L` Adara, who trained my wife Martina.
2013 saw the construction of the first section of the new workshop in Lassan-Pulow. The first new employees were recruited after the move, extremely loyal and reliable employees who have had an intensive and leading influence on production to this day and who greatly appreciate the free interaction with each other, where work is done at eye level. It is an old tradition at feeltone (since 1997) that we meet once a week on Wednesdays with all the employees and talk about what each of them would like to say and what is on their mind at the moment. Afterwards, general things are communicated so that everyone can see where the company stands in its development. This avoids a gap between the office/shipping department and the workshop and promotes the feeling of being a cog in the overall feeltone work of art. People learn about each other and relationships deepen. Today we are again 12 employees and it becomes even more important to spend time together, which pays off again in the very high motivation of the employees.
In the same year we moved privately to Pulow, where a house had just become available in which we could even set up a holiday flat for our guests. Right next door, on the first floor, my wife Martina Gläser-Böhme's practice for Sound Massage moved in.
In October 2013, the first new machines for future production arrive. With the move to Vorpommern, we decided to completely change the business model. If since 1996, in addition to production, we had taken over more and more instruments and distributed them wholesale, the market had picked up such speed in 2010 that more and more big companies were getting involved in the business, ruining the prices and the quality, and were more interested in moving containers. That was no longer my world and so the decision was good and right to concentrate on the core competence again, the research, development and production of musical instruments. From today's point of view, it was the best decision of my business life. Today, we only have a few product lines in the wholesale trade that we do not produce ourselves. About 75% of our turnover are musical instruments that we have developed ourselves and some of which are protected by patents. In the meantime, we set the tone worldwide when it comes to monochords and do not only bring instruments to the market, but also offer a well-founded training, which extends over 4 learning blocks. The training covers all areas from simply learning the many faces of the monochord, to in-depth training in sound massage and the use of the monochord in many professions. It is this knowledge and knowledge transfer in particular that makes our instruments so successful.
From this symbiosis of our instrument construction team and the knowledge of
professional application will result in a multitude of instruments and
a multitude of instruments and complementary accessories.
First in 2014, in close collaboration with our then co-worker Martin Pfeil, our sound chair monchair, which has no right angle at any point, which is an enormous challenge for carpenters. Our new vacuum press allows us to add the curved shape to our design. We developed the monchair in such a way that it can still be transported as a normal parcel by the parcel services.
In 2015 we experience a special drive in the company, an Asian company orders a total of 50 sound waves from us at the beginning of the year, which we deliver throughout the year. This allows us to immediately expand our workshop with an oil room and, in a second attempt, to double the space again from summer 2015. Almost everything is self-built with wirld-grown supporting posts from the nearby forest and built exclusively with ecological materials.
Shortly after this major order, I went on a workshop trip to the USA with my wife - Martina taught in Miami, Florida, then at the University of Phoenix in Arizona, and then we travelled to California to make further plans with our sales partner Gabriele Schwibach. She organises the courses for us and assists as a translator. On the way to San Francisco, we visit countless galleries and souvenir shops to get an impression of the needs of American customers, while visiting the oldest trees on the continent, honouring them and thanking them for allowing us to use this wonderful raw material and to give the tree a new shape and spirit in our own way. These kinds of visits to tree elders will become a tradition in the coming years.
Sequoia with Monolina
Back in Germany, we are given the task of drawing up a development plan for our future and planning security on the former LPG site, which is already called "Pulower Landwerkstätten". The various companies in the ecological industrial park join together in a Gbr for the development of the future use of the site. Actually, this time-consuming and costly matter is the work of the responsible municipality, but since we are here in the deepest east, far away from metropolises, but in a beautiful landscape, everything goes differently here. To this day, we are considered spatial pioneers, and despite the solidarity surcharge, the municipalities are still forced by budgetary considerations to sell their assets (real estate) instead of attracting new companies. Over the next 6 years, we coordinated the tasks ourselves with a planning office and 24 authorities and incurred the associated costs in order to finally obtain permission for use in 2020. It is thanks to our great flexibility and creativity in cooperation with the other partners of the Pulower Landwerkstätten that we were able to develop this alongside our general business activities. My image of a total work of art that we are creating here with feeltone in Ostvorpommern fits here again.
In 2016, after the delivery of the last sound waves to Asia, we will again take over the complete production of all instruments in the new rooms. More machines will be added in the autumn of the year so that the significantly increased number of employees can also work on machines in parallel.
In the summer I will be the proud grandfather of a grandson.
In 2017 Martina undertook a workshop trip to Portland Oregon alone, again organised and interpreted by Gabriele Schwibach, like all workshop trips before.
In 2018, feeltone USA under Gabriele Schwibach is organising a first music fair, the Namm Show in Los Angeles (LA) and I am exhibiting together with my oldest business partnership, the company Hokema Kalimbas and with Metal Sound from France. I had brought feeltone USA together with Hokema in 2016 and with Metal Sounds in 2017 and in 2018 this success story became the company "We play well Together" under Gabriele Schwibach.
After the Namm Show, I travelled through the desert with a tinka tong and a flute in my luggage to the Alabama Hills, the valley between the high snow-capped mountains of the Sierra and the White Montains, the mountains before Death Valley. A unique area, the westernmost part of the Shoshone country. There I hiked the fabulous landscape of the Alabama Hills, which have been the backdrop in many films. In the White Montains, at an altitude of 3400 m and probably the driest mountains in the entire USA, grow the Brisclecone Trees, probably the oldest trees in the world. There are standing specimens that are a little over 5000 years old, standing dead tree skeletons that have been proven by the carbon method to have died about 3000 years ago and came out of the ground as seedlings 7-8000 years ago, and there are lying dead trees that have been dead there for 6000 years and first saw the light 12000 years ago. It is too dry to wither. There are whole forests of them and you feel so small considering this age and at the same time you realise that there is no reason to be afraid. Not much has happened in this place for 12000 years. You can feel that with your hand.
In April 2018, after a long break, we will give the Musikmesse another chance, but again with sobering results, we simply miss the long-time dealers and business friends.
In the spring, I will become a grandfather twice more to two granddaughters; with the grandchildren of my wife Martina, there are now already 5 grandchildren.
During the year we have some painful accidents in production, which cost us a total of 9 months of working time.
At the end of 2018, Martina will give another workshop "Secret Monochord" on Lanzarote.
In 2019, we visit the therapy trade fair in Stuttgart for the first time, a clear success. In the course of the year, the worldwide sales of Monolinis and especially Monolinas, but also sound furniture, increase significantly. In summer Gabriele Schwibach "We play well togehter", Hugo Hokema from Hokema Kalimbas and Marc Guilliou from Metal Sounds visit us and we discuss further joint ventures and performances.
2020 Gabriele Schwibach organises again a stand with Hokema Kalimbas and Metal Sounds and feeltone under the name of "We play well together" from at the Namm Show LA. In the meantime we meet a lot of familiar faces and customers.
Of course another trip follows, this time due to time constraints only to Joshua Tree Park, a 3 hour drive from LA, where several films are made with the monochord and this time rocks and stones rather than trees.
After the trip, we will quickly exhibit at the therapy trade fair in Stuttgart at the beginning of February, dark clouds are already circling in the sky, and then full speed ahead from April into the Corona crisis lockdown with 5 months of short-time work for some of the staff.
But we don't know boredom, we are moving privately to the island of Usedom as planned on 1 March and in parallel with the Ma-Mer practice to Klotzow, directly on the delta and moor landscape of the Peene River, the water that separates the island from the mainland. A paradise for migratory birds and local fish lovers. In 2018, over 200 eagles gathered here because the drought had shrunk the large expanses of water to pools where there were plenty of fish that could not take flight.
Despite the incredibly crazy time, which changed from full braking to full throttle and back again, we were able to obtain the approval of the development plan in 2020, an extremely tough matter, considering the speed at which large corporations build up landscapes.
And thanks to the customers who turned to us so positively during the period of newfound freedom of movement in the summer of 2020, we were quickly able to make up for the shortfalls. In the second half of the year, we were additionally able to produce and ship significantly more of our instruments, constantly on the edge of capacity. This was hampered by the fact that international shipping was characterised by damage, losses, total losses, delivery delays and harassment by the completely overstretched parcel service providers due to the elimination of air transport options. There was no sign of boredom again, the pandemic took a lot more energy to constantly reorganise, re-plan and cope with losses and funding.
Nevertheless, we could clearly feel that it was very helpful for many clients to have an easy-to-play instrument at hand in these uncertain times, either to connect with the sound or to escape the increasingly wild news and the lack of perspective and to recover and draw courage in the sound. It was important to me all along not to let myself be polarised, but to walk my creative path in confidence and that worked once again.
We were able to film many films of our instruments and a portrait in 2020.
So we started the new year 2021 full of courage. There was a lot to do to fill the absolutely empty warehouse after the Christmas business and to postpone the relaunch of our new website, which we have been working on since the summer of 2020, for another month.
In January, the first Digital Namm Show still took place in Los Angeles and thanks to our American partner, we had a super appearance with many concerts, instrument presentations, plenty of visitors and many new contacts.
Then quickly back to the website: I spent 8 weeks alone meticulously revising all the texts, translating everything and completely rebuilding the shop, and in the background several colleagues entered all the data into our new invoicing software, an undertaking not to be underestimated given the complexity of our company. From the beginning of March onwards, proofreading was done diligently in two languages. On 1 April we are due to go live.
And despite the fact that we are already in lockdown again and even longer, it is something different in 2021 than in 2020. Last year we had the advantage of the shock that took us through the initial pain, this year the pain is becoming more chronic, a paralysing habituation to "nothing works but work". Well - we don't let that take away the joy of working together and are happy about our team and what we achieve every day.
This year, too, we have a lot of new plans, changes outside and inside, but my review of the almost 40-year history must now end here. What is still to come I will add to this history from time to time.
A hard lockdown has just been imposed over Easter instead of the hoped-for relaxation. We are therefore postponing the reopening of our shop once again, so that this does not become an April Fool's joke.
Ingo Böhme in March 2021