Name: Bruno Duplant
Occupation: Field Recorder, Sound Artist, Composer, Label Curator at Rhizome.s
Current Releases: All We Have Learned And Then Forgotten with Pedro Chambel on Éter Editions. Preservation with David Vélez on Dinzu Artefacts. l'ennui with l'ensemble instable on Creative Sources.
Recommendations: Books (texts & art) & music from John Cage & Rolf Julius. The poetry of Francis Ponge.
Website / Contact: If you enjoyed this interview with Bruno Duplant, his facebook page offers updates and further information.
When did you start recording in the field - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
First of all, I am not used to answer questions about my musical practice. I started recording sounds truly late. I first began making music with some tools on an old PC. Then I started to unprofessionally play various instruments (guitar, doublebass, percussion, organ), that was fifteen years ago. Later, having bought a simple Zoom H2, I began recording sounds around me, not especially “natural” ones, but more “cultural” ones. I made this distinction, because it is the foundation of my practice of field recording, even more so today.
About early passions and influences, I can quote John Cage for his philosophy & his practice of art and composition, later Luc Ferrari with “Presque rien” and Rolf Julius (for his art & his music) which are still the cornerstone of my practice today. I can also add Toshiya Tsunoda whose meticulous and very personal work fascinates me.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
To answer quickly, I never learned. Instead, I immediately started doing things with my own voice, both with my musical practice and with composition. The fact of being an autodidact has for me been an advantage, allowing me to look forward and follow my own path.
What were your main challenges when you started out recording in the field and how have they changed over time?
I never changed a lot of things during my recording sessions, with the exception maybe of my material which is today a little more complex than a few years ago. I never read a technical manual. I want to record things as a discreet witness. But as I shall relate later in this interview, the recorded sounds are only a material for composition.
What was your first set-up like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first set up was truly minimalist and simple, a Zoom H2 with no other microphone. Now I still have always a small portable recorder from Sony, with the use of the incredible Luhd microphones handmade in Norway (binaural & stereo ones). Above all, I want my material to be portable, not bulky and very discreet in order to be able to record everywhere and all the time. I always have my Sony on me.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
As you see, I am not so much into technology. When I was young a lot of these material did not exist or were truly expensive, reserved for professional use. I am pleased to see all this become democratic but also miniaturized. As a child I dreamed of being able to record the sounds, the melodies, the phrases I had in my head. We are almost there.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
In terms of recording, all is simple, quite natural. I am most of the time passive or an actor of the recording. When it comes to composition, it is quite different and truly more complicated. But for to make things simple, I like to have fun to use software to counter-employment. Tools are important for composition, for treatments, but I have always used the same ones and don’t have a professional set up.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing or just talking about ideas?
Collaborations are 50 % part of my musical practice, whether for musical composition (like I did for exemple with Ryoko Akama & David Velez) or for the use of field recordings. It is almost a cliché, but a lot of people associate my name with “file sharing”. But anyway, it is the only way I have to practice with someone else, living where I live. And it seems that it works. To that end, most of the time we'll talk, with a concept, a text, a score and then decide who starts and who sends files first. For me it is absolutely obvious today.
I forgot to say that my pieces with field recordings are all composed pieces.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
First of all, I am teacher, a librarian teacher. I only make music when I have time, in the evening, on the week-end, in my holidays. I spend most of my time surrounded in books. I have this opportunity. Some authors, some texts, some works have become great sources of inspiration for me. This is the case for all the poetry of Francis Ponge, the texts of Georges Perec, the philosophy of Gaston Bachelard. So, my life, my practices are not compartmentalized. As for John Cage, for me, everything is music. We just have to open our windows.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a recording or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
One of my first real recordings for an album was “certaines usines fantômes” out on the great Belgian label Unfathomless run by Daniel Crokaert. First of all, I made some recordings from a lot of different places in France & Europe (museums, abandoned places, shipyards, streets, but also old vinyls, etc …) for one or two years without any real ideas. I let them ripen in my mind for months, listening to them sometimes, forgetting them and then rediscovering them. And then one day, everything became clear. The sounds have come together like the pieces of a puzzle that would become obvious. Like this 20 minutes piece may have emerged and ended in a few minutes. The composition becomes almost always instantaneous. For this project the title and the images of “ghost factories” appeared to me truly obvious, even if no sound came from such places.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
What is an “ideal state”. It is a bit like "happiness", it is a concept, a state hardly identifiable, because it means different things to different people. I'm not looking and waiting for the right time to work, I work almost daily, sometimes with great difficulty. But I know that every moment, everything I could read, every error I can do, every listen I will make will bear fruits in a more or less near future. I like the idea of being like an author of literature or poetry, writing everyday on a white page.
How is recording in the field and editing the music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
Recording and editing are two different states, one more passive for me (the recording) and the other more active (the work on the sounds, the composition itself). The collection of sounds can be seen as fishing, an artisanal harvest in which one can have good surprises and less good ones. The whole approach is about accepting to make do with this. With this method of work I have to accept the hollow periods, failures and even the doubt. This process is not very cartesian, so I must accept the absence of real rules, which I do every day. In that way I need “composition” to experiment “improvisation”, and vice versa. It is a truly strange alchemy that I am maybe the only one who can truly understand. It is like when I did a score for piano (like I did recently for the awesome Reinier van Houdt), the score is a more or less restrictive guide in which the interpreter is able to project her- or himself with a greater or lesser part of improvisation.
I see and name my compositional process (whether for instruments or for field recordings) as an "attempt at organizing chance."
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
The composition allows me to assemble more or less logically and incongruously the different sounds collected. I never try to reproduce the sounds that surround me in a logical and precise way; that would only make me a poor copyist. I try to create something new, a new fictional entity that I have named “autofiction”, "self-fiction". This must surprise the listener, lead him to ask questions. As with Luc Ferrari, it is an assemblage of recorded sequences in which we recognize a succession of various events and we reconstruct in our imaginary a possible narrative that may have been at the origin of these sounds. I try to organize the different sounds, puts them in relation, creating associations but also contradictions in the mind of the listener.
I did this with the LP fictions out on aussenraum records, on which I tried to translate the reality of two exclusion zones (Chernobyl and Fukushima) into “fictions” by using sounds which originally had no relation with these places.
My next release will be a double CD on Mappa editions (a fantastic Slovak label), in which I push the concept to incorporate some discreet electronic sounds (played by my friend Pedro Chambel) in my compositional process, which I use in the same way as sounds recorded across different places to create two entities where we no longer know where we are (inside, outside, here, there, elsewhere) neither to recognize the truth of the false.
This summer I finished three new projects with field recordings, one in duo with the great Francisco Meirino “dedans/dehors” and two others in solo. “d’autres usines fantômes” the following of “certaines usines fantômes” and “wald” a project around the concept of German “forest” and also around the opposition nature / culture. The sounds that surround us, are they “natural” or are they not “cultural” as long as human ears capture them?
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I am sure that our sense of hearing works with all the other senses, especially with the view. One of my next release track title will be “l’oeil écoute”, a reference to a title quote by Eugen Blume speaking about Rolf Julius's work: “Does the eye ear?” To answer I will cite this haiku from Rolf Julius:
three stones (to sing)
sometimes the gnat is a swallow
or a sound is a stone
I am also thinking that places, things have memory. And to answer your question, I am thinking that there are no borders for sounds, I think that Universe is “sound and rhythm” as much as “matter and energy”. And “silence” doesn’t exist; remember John Cage’s 4’33”.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I think art can have a primordial social role in order to exhaust our senses, our reflection, our points of view, to open our minds to the unknown, the different, the unexpected in order to avoid retrograde ideas and withdrawal. It is like a utopia, but I believe in it from the depths of my being. For the political role, I think it is quite different. I understand that art can endorse, assume this role, but this should not be its primary role, which is more cultural and social. But if art can help to have more freedom around the world, I sign up here right now!
Speaking about “being an artist”, I prefer to say “I am not a professional; I just make music for being myself”. It is the others who make you an artist.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
Music is eternal, only new processes, new instruments will allow its development and its progress forward. But even several centuries from now, people will still listen to Bach, Mozart and the great composers who will resist time. I think that the brilliant Jürg Frey will surely be one of those, as will some others from today.
I love science fiction but can not predict the future.