After completing his music education in Turkey, Aydan Akıneri settled in Finland and when he was unable to find a workshop to have his bassoon repaired, he actually discovered the profession that he would continue with great passion for the rest of his life. Today, Aydan Akıneri still repairs and makes instruments at the Akıneri Nefesli Sazlar (Akıneri Wind Instruments) workshop in Izmir. We met with Aydan Akıneri and talked about his nearly half a century long passion for instruments and his craft.
Interview: Aslı Yazan
Photographs: Şener Yılmaz Aslan
You have over 45 years of expertise in making and repairing instruments. What led you to this craft instead of performing music?
The story actually goes back to 1973… I was a student of Stig Forsman in Pietarsaari, Finland, where I settled in 1972, and I needed to have my bassoon repaired but there was no workshop in the city. So, the instrument had to be sent to Germany for repair. I had made my decision. The same year, I opened a repair and maintenance workshop with the tools I purchased from Ferre, the famous US company. I also attended the training programs of the same company. Years later, I returned to Turkey and worked as the Orchestra Director and luthier at Bilkent University, Ankara, and then luthier at İzmir State Opera and Ballet. After all the experience, it was time for me to do something for my country. I found myself making G clarinet, and for the last decade I dedicated my life to this business.
What does an instrument maker and repairman do?
What we do is more than simple repair work because there is an artistic dimension. Even if the work we do is a craft, when it comes to musical instruments, you need to add aesthetic concern as an indispensable part of art. Otherwise it would be like fixing a faucet and you wouldn’t be able to advance your craft. So, besides manual skills, you need to have an eye for making, caring for and repairing instrument. The masters of instrument making, maintenance and repair are called luthier, which comes from French and mostly refers to makers of stringed instruments such as violins. People like me who specialize in making, maintaining and repairing wood and copper wind instruments are also called “woodwinds repairman” or “brass repairman”. But nowadays, they are generally called luthier.
Initially, how did you identify which tools you would need to make and repair instruments?
If you are interested in and love a subject, it is easier to do research and overcome challenges. You must love what you do. This is how I acquired all this knowledge because I love it and research a lot.
Do you think instrument making and repair requires training? Or, is it more important to discover and pursue this passion?
Training is a must. But as I mentioned earlier, if you want to succeed in what you do, it must be or become your passion. And when we add education and training to whatever you are passionate about, success will inevitably be yours. A very important point to remember is that if you have the passion and the training but lack the talent, your success will have a limit. So, never forget that you need to be talented as well.
The maintenance of all the wind instruments at Izmir State Opera and Ballet is entrusted to you. Most of the instrument makers are actually talented musicians who know the instruments they make or repair really well. What led you to focusing on wind instruments?
What is a must-have in a city, town or village? For instance, even a small residential location has a healthcare center because it is an essential need for people. The governments should provide this most basic need along with education. It is essential for life. Similarly, instruments are essential for orchestras, aren’t they? Who will care for them when they get sick? I use this analogy with people to emphasize its importance. A true instrument player must have the bare minimum maintenance knowledge about his/her instrument. Of course, they do not need to have the same skills or the tools and equipment like a surgeon to perform surgery in an operating theater. This is what we do. We are the ones that heal instruments, extend their lifespan and even make new ones. I would like to emphasize one point: An instrument maker, an instrument repairman should be able to play the instrument or instruments that he specializes in. I studied saxophone during my music education and played in bands and orchestras for years. And when I hold other wind instruments, I can play a simple C major or A minor scale. Any wind instrument from flute to tuba to bassoon that you can see in an orchestra comes to our workshop for maintenance and repair. If you can't play the instruments you specialize in even a little bit, you cannot test whether or not the instrument you have repaired is actually fixed.
Photographs: Şener Yılmaz Aslan
Are the people who want to buy a clarinet in Turkey mostly interested in Turkish or western music? Do you think the clarinet is the right wind instrument to take it up as a hobby?
Most of the people who want to buy a clarinet in Turkey are more interested in Turkish music. The number of people who play the B clarinet is naturally less. But it is a suitable instrument to play as a hobby.
I have always thought that the clarinet is the ideal wind instrument to create a synthesis between eastern and western music. What do you think about it?
You are right. There are of course some differences between the G and B clarinets. Basically the instrument is the same but the limits of volume, color, keys, sequences are different. But they do not necessarily prevent you from playing something in western or Turkish music. The clarinet has been very popular recently, especially in genres like pop music and world music. It also has a very important place in jazz music. And we all know how significant it is in Turkish music.
What is your favorite clarinet piece?
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major for the B clarinet. It is magnificent… It’s as if Mozart put everything about clarinet into notes and turned them into this beautiful music in this concerto.
What is a typical day in your workshop?
I usually start the day early and arrive at my studio around 9 – 9.30 am. You may find it hard to believe but sometimes I leave the workshop at 8 pm but never before 7 pm. I put the kettle on immediately. And I set to work with some nice music playing on the computer. The music never stops in the workshop. There's always an instrument waiting for me on the counter. I take a quick look and think about what we would do that day. Just like the morning rounds of the doctors… I review the situation and then get to work.
We also make G clarinet, barrel and bells on order. Making a clarinet is not something that you complete in a snap and takes roughly a month. First you get an aged but unprocessed wood, which is then shaped on a special machine. The shaped wood then undergoes a number of processes. The keys are also individually prepared, and then all of these parts are assembled. After fine tuning, the instrument is ready. It is a very arduous and equally very pleasurable task. Imagine, you are doing a job you love, and giving voice to wood.
Don't think that all I do is limited to my counter and the repair work. There are calls to be answered, instruments to be shipped, the needs of the workshop, and more. There are of course other employees in the workshop as well, but I have the first and the last word, so my tasks never end. I don't want them to end anyway because I love what I do and I do it with great passion. I recommend everyone to do what they love and do with passion because only then, the challenges you face will not wear you out and life will be better ...
Do you have other plans for the future of Akıneri?
Considering my age, dreaming of a very long future ahead would not be very realistic. But believe me, I always have a plan, an idea for change. This is a never-ending cycle for me. Frankly, I would not want it to end. This is probably what makes me who I am…
Thank you very much for your precious time.
I would like to thank you for coming all the way here and creating an opportunity to introduce me to people.