Jonas Kocher > Musicians are insufficiently political and often somewhat closed in their network
Jonas Kocher > Musicians are insufficiently political and often somewhat closed in their network
On Festival-in-opposition, along with Gaudenz Badrutt, you will present the work of Bruit association. How did you started this association and with what goals in a first place?
The association Bruit was created in 2013. It is based in Biel/Bienne, a small multicultural town of 55,000 inhabitants, with a strong proletarian history and located on the border between the French and German speaking parts of Switzerland. Bruit was founded first as an official structure to get subsidies to realize my projects and tours. Since 2020, Gaudenz Badrutt has joined me as co-artistic director. We then obtained funds to professionalize the structure, which we also redesigned. Currently, Bruit promotes sound activities based on improvisation, experimentation and interdisciplinary. Artists from different European countries gravitate around the activities of the association, forming a kind of informal network where common interests, spirit and friendship are the binding force. Apart from producing its own projects, Bruit tries to link international and local activities here in Biel/Bienne, to circulate artists and knowledge between professionals, but also to establish the practice of improvisation among the local population. Bruit wants to give the best possible visibility to all these sound and improvised activities which are often relegated to the shade of more commercial or academic music.
From the Serbian point of view we see Switzerland as a „promised land“ not just in terms of life standard, but also in a relation to support for art, particularly „non-commercial“ artists. How do you see the position of Bruit in Swiss „culture politics landscape“, do you manage to organise your artistic work during the whole year?
Bruit is fortunate to have the regular support of the city of Biel/Bienne, the canton of Berne, private foundations and especially Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Art Council, which is a key partner in the realization of our work, mostly abroad. All these organizations support non-commercial and experimental practices because they know that these spaces are essential as artistic incubators but also as spaces of freedom within the population and that even if they are on the fringes, they are part of the balance of the cultural and artistic offer. The people in charge of culture in the institutions have a broad vision, we are in regular contact, they know our artistic work and our vision. We are lucky to be able to work together in this way in Switzerland and to have this culture of transparency. We work on the terrain but we need public funds for that, just as they need us to nurture the cultural landscape. I see all this as a direct positive consequence of the Swiss political system and the abundance that exists in this country. And the state provides us with the tools to work with public money in a creative way while trusting us. This notion of trust between state and citizens is very important and really exists in Switzerland, unlike in many other countries. Thanks to this solid base, we can carry out our activities throughout the year in complete freedom. I think we're very lucky to have such a base for our activities, which is all the more motivating for us to do it in the best possible way. We organize four or five events a year in Biel/Bienne, plus our own tours and a few CD releases. We don't receive regular support, so we have to finance each of our projects independently. It's demanding, but it gives us great freedom of action.
You’ve been visiting Serbia before. Did you get some experience and impression on Serbian contemporary music/art scene, in terms of musicians, infrastructure, other organisations (such as Ring Ring, or kuda.org, etc).
Since 2007, I have travelled extensively throughout the former Yugoslavia and collaborated with many musicians from Serbia such as Blank Disc duo, Lukatoyboy, Marina Džukljev, the Ensemble Studio 6, and also with Slovenian musicians Tomaz Grom. Irena Z. Tomazin, Samo Kutin. I have also organized many workshops, concerts and festivals together with Bojan Djordjevic. I really appreciate the commitment of the musicians and organizers here, who despite the difficult conditions keep their passion for what they do. I have learned a lot from all these collaborations that continue throughout the years.
How do you see the importance of connection with artists from this part of Europe in general, how much do you work with musicians and organisations from ex-yu countries such as Croatia, Slovenia, etc...?
This network of friendships and work established over the years has enabled us to carry out important projects in the former Yugoslavia and in Switzerland. The exchanges are very clear and direct, the result, besides being of the highest artistic level, is always joyful and lively, which is for me a determining factor. We are able to pool our knowledge and resources in a natural way. Once again, I have learned a lot from all these experiences and from the pooling of strengths. The network here is much less dense than in Switzerland and Europe, but the quality that emerges after all these years is unique. Over the years, I've been able to carry out major projects such as the Šalter Ensemble (2017, 2023), the Belongings project with Studio6 and numerous spontaneous collaborations, in the former Yugoslavia and in Switzerland too. On each occasion, this has been based on a genuine desire to collaborate on both sides, without it becoming a predefined program over a period of years, with obligations.
With Gaudenz Badrutt you’ve been working for a while. On bandcamp, I’ve found your track Strategy of behaviour in unexpected situations, which dates back in 2012. So, is it just an interesting title or do you have a strategy when it comes to live or recorded improvisation? How do you relate to improvisation in your work, in what way do you approach it?
Gaudenz Badrutt is a long-time musical partner. We have developed a way of playing and thinking about music that is truly our own. This title, taken from an essay on improvisation by the Polish musician Rafal Mazur, perfectly reflects not only an attitude towards improvisation that is open and ready for anything, but also applies for me to life in general. Improvisation is a central activity in my life as a musician. Listening, more than choosing a particular aesthetic, is decisive for me in the practice of improvisation. It is thanks to it that music is created in the moment, thus often allowing material that is at first sight dissimilar to cohabit and to offer situations full of tension and energy. I would say that listening is the very strategy, to return to the title of 2012, as much as during concerts, recordings and workshops.
How do you approach to the sound of accordion, which often reflects some kind of ethnical music (especially in this part of Europe)? What is a place of accordion music on Swiss impro/music scene in general?
About 20 years ago, I completely rediscovered the accordion through the practice of electronic music. This allowed me to reconsider the instrument, which can be a sinus sound generator, a diabolical machine and at the same time an extension of my breathing. The clichés often associated with ethnic music disappear completely, leaving only the image of the accordionist on stage but whose playing has nothing to do with it. In recent years, more and more young accordionists are active on the improvised scene in Switzerland and Europe. This is really interesting and promising because there is still a lot to explore with this instrument. Apart from a few rare names, historical references are minimal compared to saxophonists, pianists, etc. Everything remains to be done to build the history of this instrument in these musics.
How do you see the mission of Festival-in-opposition and “anti-festival” concept they’re presenting?
Such spaces of encounter, musical creation and discourse are essential. Very often, there is only music and the exchanges take place informally in the corner of a bar after a concert. Giving space to the discourse, putting it at the centre is important. From my point of view, musicians are too little politicised and often a little locked up in their own (small) network. We need exchanges, discussions, to know how people live elsewhere, how they organize themselves. In Switzerland, despite the abundance (or perhaps because of it), there is little or no reflection on the part of musicians and organisers about music, politics, improvisation and so on. There are dozens of festivals, some with really great programming but unfortunately no space for reflection and exchange on the themes mentioned above. The discussion panels usually revolve around promotion strategies, copyrights or management which is entirely in line with our country's economic history.
Photo: GBJK_Ljujbljana2022 @Marcandrea
Jonas Kocher (Biel/Bienne) is a sound artist and accordionist born in 1977. He has a strong interest in process oriented works, unstable situations and improvisation. Active in numerous artistic and social contexts, his regular collaborators are musicians such as Joke Lanz, Axel Dörner, Jacques Demierre, Hans Koch, Gaudenz Badrutt, Tomaž Grom, Radu Malfatti, Christof Kurzmann, Kai Fagaschinsky and many others. As sound artist and composer Jonas Kocher has realized works that are situated between composed theatre, installation and concert pieces. He has been invited to present his work as accordionist or composer by major festivals such as Festival Météo Mulhouse, Festival Le Bruit de la Musique, Art Biennale Thessaloniki, Music Unlimited Wels, Ring Ring Festival Belgrade, Konfrontationen Nickelsdorf, Unerhört Festival Zürich, Musik Festival Bern, Biennale Zagreb, Festival Sonic Circuits Washington. He was awarded the Artist in Residence Scholarship (Cité des Arts Paris) of the Canton of Bern 2004, the recognition prize from the Canton of Bern 2010 and was awarded composition grants from the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia in 2012 and 2019. Award Winner of the Liechti Prize for the Arts 2020.
Gaudenz Badrutt is an electroacoustic musician working in the field of improvised and composed music. He studied classical piano. His electroacoustic music is characterized by an instrumental use of computer/live sampling and electronic devices. He also works in the fields of sound and video installation and musicology. Gaudenz Badrutt is known as a solo performer, for his collaborations with Jonas Kocher (accordion) and Hans Koch (bass clarinet, clarinet, soprano saxophone), as well as one half of the electroacoustic duo Strøm. He is currently working on projects with Jean-Luc Guionnet, Frantz Loriot, Jacques Demierre, Christof Kurzmann, Kai Fagaschinski, Ilia Belorukov, Urs Leimgruber, Alfred Zimmerlin and Daniel Studer. He has performed at the Festivals Zwei Tage Strom Zürich, Jauna Musika Vilnius, RingRing Belgrade, Music Unlimited Wels, Le Bruit de la Musique Saint-Silvain-sous-Toulx France, Sanatorium of Sound Poland, Irtijal Beirut, Zwei Tage Zeit Zürich, Transmediale Berlin, Taktlos/Tonart Bern etc.
Gaudenc Badrut & Jonas Koher. The two musicians have been collaborating for many years in interdisciplinary projects, with other musicians or dancers but they are above all a duo where improvisation is at the heart of their music-making. A music in which the accordion and electronics become one, a music that is both disconcerting (one does not know when or how the sound events they propose will appear) and exciting, so much so that the quality of the sounds brought into play, their diversity and their ruptures invite one to a playful listening experience in which the ear discovers breaths, clicks, whistles, rustles and other manifestations of a sound world that is as much organic as it is reserved. Badrutt and Kocher have been invited to present their work at the Festival Le Bruit de la Musique (F), Sokolowsko Sanatorium of Sound (PL), JOLT Festival (CH), Ring Ring Festival Belgrade (RS), Unlimited Wels (AT) and have been extensively touring in Europe and Russia since 2012. They currently work closely with musicians such as Hans Koch, Christof Kurzmann, Kai Fagaschinski or Ilia Belorukov.