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Giving voice to emotions: A. Lange & Söhne x Alexis Péan (Ep.4)

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 16 March 2017

The moment to celebrate our collaboration with the prestigious German watch manufacturer A. Lange & Söhne has come. We present to you the last short film of the series that has brought together the vision of the Glashütte watchmakers and that of a contemporary artist around a shared theme. After Gravity with Quentin Carnaille, Universe with Felix Kiessling & Light with Damien Bénéteau, discover Sound and music with Alexis Péan.

Lute-making & watchmaking: Crafts of art and emotion

The resemblance is clear. Objects, artworks crafted entirely by the hand of Man. It doesn’t do the pieces justice by simply watching, touching, or admiring them. These are pieces that call upon another one of our senses, often overlooked in the context of watchmaking: hearing. Sounds, like voices of these instruments creating emotion that touches us, and moves us.

Alexis Péan: Luthier

Alexis Péan is a luthier. He makes stringed instruments, mainly those of the string quartet: violins, violas, cellos but also double basses.

Similar to the finest watchmakers who master the production process of a timepiece in its entirety, Alexis Péan learned with prestigious masters at the Vatelot-Rampal workshop before fine-tuning his knowledge in restoring and studying numerous instruments of the Great Masters of the Italian and French schools between the 17th and the 20th centuries.

Today Alexis custom crafts these instruments, by hand, the traditional way. Naturally, this takes time. Depending on how much work is necessary, it takes between a month and a year to make one instrument. An art that elegantly reminds us how much true luxury rhymes with time, patience and subtleness. Natural materials crafted with passion. Without a doubt passion inherited from an piano tuner and repairer father.

The sound of each instrument is very precisely and very carefully crafted to the needs of the musician and to his or her musical “character.” The final crucial step, without which sound and emotion would not exist, is the placing of the âme (French for “soul”). This fine piece of spruce gingerly positioned inside the instrument’s body is held in place vertically, without glue, by the friction between the top and back plates. The âme is what allows the sound of the instrument to travel, hence its position is critical to the point that moving it half a millimeter will completely alter the sound.

This final stage demands, therefore, particular know-how that no machine will ever be able to replace. The authentic worth of Man’s hand in all its splendor. A wise blend of hearing, touch and sensitivity.

A. Lange & Söhne Zeitwerk Striking Time

The parallel with watchmaking is made here with the Zeitwerk Striking Time, iconic watch from watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne which brings in an additional dimension to the timepiece: the magic of sound. The famous piece with the hour and minutes window displays from the manufacturer Glashütte now gives voice.

A. Lange & Söhne - Zeitwerk Striking Time

This is not a minute repeater that chimes at the demanded exact hour by repetitions and combinations of low-pitched and high-pitched chimes, but as its name indicates for English-speakers: “It strikes time.” Hours are indicated by a tiny hammer striking the bass bell and the quarter hours by the higher pitched one.

Like in the making of a musical instrument, the craft is guided by the hand and the judgment of Man. Although the chosen materials and the arrangement of the bells and hammers are thought upstream for better resonance and sound travel, the final crucial step comes within the competency of a watchmaker’s ear and sensitivity for assembly.

Alexis Péan - Luthier

Similar to a luthier placing the âme at the heart of the instrument’s body, the watchmaker will cut the bell to the desired length and adjust its sound to achieve the desired acoustic balance. You see ? Here we are. Individual crafts that identify with each other by form, content, and even on screen…