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15 Questions to Gurun Gurun

img  Tobias Fischer

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Jara Tarnovski: Hi Tobias and Lara, I'm fine, thanks. Right now, I'm in my home studio in the East Bohemian town of Pardubice.

What’s on your schedule right now?
Gurun Gurun have recently finished remixes for Dot Tape Dot and Park Avenue Music. Now, I am working on the mixtape for Secret Thirteen. We have been working on Gurun Gurun's second album, too. This time Gurun Gurun are a fourpiece: Tomas Knoflicek, Federsel, Ondrej Jezek and me. We plan to release our new album in 2012. Together with Federsel we are also working on the album of the “Wabi Experience” project, which is our tribute to the Czech folk music legend Wabi Danek.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the city you are currently living in?

Pardubice is probably best known for its plastic explosive called Semtex. It is the town of chemical and electrical industries. This might be the reason why EBM was popular here in 1990s. Now, mainly punk and pub rock go on well in Pardubice. However, not many local people are interested in the kind of music we play.

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I started to be more interested in music at the end of primary school. I was impressed by post-punk and bands like The Velvet Underground or Can at that time. I also listened to shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Cranes or the music on the 4AD label. Later, I discovered minimalism and spiritual composers such as Meredith Monk, Hildegard von Bingen, Henryk Górecki, Erik Satie. I think they were my most important musical influences. Subsequently, I played in several bands. Probably the best known was called Miou Miou. It was signed to the Minty Fresh label and Japanese label Rallye.

What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Meeting with guitarist Tomas Knoflicek was the most important moment for me. We have known each other for many years. We have played together in several bands and projects, including Gurun Gurun. He has influenced me a lot, thanks to him I have started to be more interested in minimalism and electronic music. Lately, Tomas has dealt with interdisciplinarity in the arts, especially with the relationship between image and sound. He has been also preparing a concert video design for Gurun Gurun.

What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
Mainly to finish the second album of Gurun Gurun and always try to surprise ourselves with something new.

What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
At the very beginning I need to find an inspiring and interesting sound. This sound must impress me. It can be sound of a musical or a non-musical instrument, but also a sample or a field recording. I think, the first sound of a track is as important as the first word of a short story. It opens the door of imagination.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
We combine improvising and composing, we are a semi-improvisational collective. Mostly we have some pre-prepared basic melodic and rhythmic lines which we together improvise into. It is something as a "controlled deconstruction”. Other way around, we often try to build a composition in the studio from our recorded improvisations. Anyway, some of our tracks are just improv, they are done live without editing.

How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?

Everything is in motion, everything vibrates and everything makes a sound. I try to perceive all these elements as interconnected. The tones of musical instruments and ambient sounds that surround us are equal for me. In our songs we use quite often dissonance and noises. John Cage promoted the idea of substituting the word "music" for a much more meaningful term "organization of sound". I also do not see myself as a composer, but rather as an organizer of sound.

Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
It may be (hopefully) interesting for someone, but it is not so important. It is important to know the production process and composition of the food that you have on your table. But sounds just need to be listened to...

There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualisation, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
Physical releases involve other senses: eyesight, touch and even smell. A good artwork brings a new dimension to a record. I like handmade releases, especially. Listening to a vinyl is actually sort of modern ritual. At the same time I listen to digital files a lot, especially on the road. It is practical. I think that digital and physical media both have their own future, both of them will continue, both of them will be issued in parallel, analogous to paper books and e-books.

The role of an artist is always subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I feel art and creation as my own particular path to self-knowledge. The most interesting, adventurous and perhaps pointless way.

Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today?
The true value of music is its ability to constantly reinvent itself.

How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?

I really do not know ... Perhaps try to teach dodecaphony in primary and secondary schools instead of gym? Produce only quarter-tone pianos? Or let take off 4 million helicopters which Stockhausen's "Helicopter String Quartet" is played in?

Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.

I definitely recommend Oldrich Janota, minimalist, unique guitarist and composer. I think he is the best Czech spiritual poet, currently. I recommend also the Czech duo Irene & Vojtech Havel. Their music has been described as "a duet of cello and piano taking place in a cathedral of sound." French director Vincent Moon made a beautiful documentary film "The Little Blue Nothing" about them recently.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?

I imagine my “magnum opus” as a recording that is machined as well as rough, raw but also polished. Like a stone in a field.

Intro by Lara Cory

Gurun Gurun Discography:
Gurun Gurun (Home Normal) 2010
Gorogoro Garagara Rimikkusu (Home Normal) 2010

Recommended Gurun Gurun interviews & articles on the web:
Short but insightful interview with Gurun Gurun at EAT Guide

Gurun Gurun

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