For today's Handpan Maker Spotlight we'll be taking a look at Veritas Sound Sculpture of Asheville, North Carolina.
Veritas is run by my good friend Josh Rivera. Josh is not only a talented handpan builder but also a skilled audio engineer, musician, and skateboarder too! You can trust me when I say that Josh radiates positivity and fun and the handpans he builds are truly a reflection of this.
I got a chance to talk with Josh recently and learn more about his journey to creating the Veritas Sound Sculpture.
What is your company name? And what is the meaning/inspiration behind it?
I named my instruments Veritas Sound Sculpture for a few reasons. Veritas is Latin for "truth". The main reason is that over the years of both playing and building these instruments I have discovered that these instruments are quite reflective of our mental/emotional/physical states. Through musical and physical expression they tend to reveal a lot of "truth" that can sometimes be hidden within us.
Asheville, North Carolina
How did you first discover the handpan?
In 2006 I was studying tabla/darbuka/riq instruments as much as I could and while watching world percussion videos I came across the Hang. It took me days to finally find what the instrument was called and what it actually was. Then I found the original forum and was guided by still current friends into the world of the Hang and handpans. 3 months from discovering it I was incredibly fortunate to pick my scale from Felix and Sabina and soon after it was in my hands. This instrument has directed the majority of my life since!
What made you decide to start building handpans?
Originally I wanted to just be a player and performer, which I did for years. Having been unhappy in my jobs and not knowing which direction to go I went to "Handpangea" (an early handpan gathering) in Gerton, North Carolina during a rough time in life. Three days of driving later I met amazing people and felt like I had found a direction of some sort, though I didn't know what it was. During that time I had a conversation with both Collin Foulke and Mark Garner who said similar things; "You seem like a person who would enjoy tuning". Having those words floating through my head I returned home and closed my home recording studio and started to learn to tune with lots of help from Colin. After a period of hammering non-stop I dropped to part-time to dedicate more time to learning the craft. Eventually, Mark offered me a job tuning with Saraz with whom I learned a lot and spent the next 5 years tuning and helping to develop their instruments alongside their team.
What is your goal as a handpan builder?
It is hard to lock down a specific goal, but in the end, I build every instrument as if it was going to be mine. Having played this instrument for the last 14 years and doing countless retunes I have come to learn what things I like and what I dislike about the instrument and strive to create a sound that is both consistent and balanced. I try to remove any distractions from the instrument and create it in a way that allows the player to express themselves to the fullest.
What would you say your instruments are known for?
Voicing. One of the first people to order an instrument from me was an incredibly accomplished piano player and he said "I picked your instrument during my research because of the way you 'voice' it". Voicing an instrument is solely dependent on the creator's/tuner's ears. Getting so many frequencies to blend in a pleasant way on one resonating body takes more than just creating tuned notes. The way the notes sing, aside from just being in tune, as well as the timbre created and how it feels to strike your hands on is all part of the individual's style of sonic character.
What are your most and least favorite things about being a handpan builder?
My favorite part is the excitement of the unknown. Every time I begin a new instrument there is a feeling of both fear and promise of what it will turn out like. Each one will vary slightly and it is always hard to tell what will happen until you get to the very end. I truly enjoy physical work and running the air hammer. I feel as if it is a paintbrush. Creating something by hand that starts off as nothing more than a kitchen bowl and turning it into a singing sculpture is an incredible feeling!
My least favorite part is having to do the "business" parts. Ordering shipping materials, cases, dealing with shipping restrictions throughout the world, presenting myself to the world, and having to shut off the insecurities of doing so can be difficult. Also, the pressure of a constantly changing medium of both players and builders and learning how to stay focused so as to not get caught up and discouraged by social media views or public opinions too much. It is hard to stay true to what you believe in when there is so much noise pulling and encouraging different directions.
If you could only play one handpan scale for the rest of your life what would it be and why?
Ugh, with so many moods it has hard to say. I would likely settle on Pygmy, in almost any key. Pygmy, to me, is versatile and emotional and full of varying directions and really embodies the simplicity that creating music with handpans is known for.