Name: Jeker / Moser
Members: Thomas Jeker, Christian Moser
Occupation: Musician, composer, sound designer (Thomas Jeker), oud player, improviser (Christian Moser)
Current Event: Jeker / Moser will perform at the Klangbox series at Galerie Zora Auguste in Berlin. The performances, which also double up as release events for beautifully designed tapes, are curated by Kaan Bulak [Read our Kaan Bulak interview] and will highlight a wealth of approaches towards working with sound. Each Klangbox gig will bring together musicians from the most diverse corner of the stylistic spectrum and place them outside of their usual comfort zone, promising performances stimulating for the audience and the performers alike.
Get tickets for the first Klangbox event here. For physical products, visit the website of the Feral Note label.
If you enjoyed this interview with Jeker / Moser and would like to find out more, visit the personal homepages of Thomas Jeker and Christian Moser. The project also has its own Facebook page.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?
TJ: Sound is energy. I find that sound produces and manifests a certain vital force. The other thing that I find interesting is the immediacy of sound, how it can reach your inner being really quickly without even having the time to think about it.
The mystery of sonic experience is that we are all quite deeply affected by sound but we understand very little of what it does to us.
I remember two early incidents. One was when I was a young teen. I heard a school band playing covers. Hearing people of my age and from my town and social surrounding playing hits from around the world really made an impression. It gave me my first urge to go out and buy an electric guitar and that it wouldn’t be that strange if I tried this too.
An earlier memory I had was of this habit I had of listening to my room in my home, sort of the equivalent to staring at the ceiling. I remember this quality well, of zoning out in a peaceful kind of existence. I also remember being aware of the sounds of grass and crickets. I also really loved it when my mother put on music on a cassette player. It was mostly Italian popular songs from the 60s or 70s.
CM: What attracts me first is always a sound; of an instrument, a band, an environment … And then the curiosity of its inner structure; What is its nature, what its magic? How does it work? Is it reproducible or unique? It seems that a first glimpse of a sound always contains everything that we later try to understand and recreate, sometimes over years.
Thanks to the concept of Pauline Olivero`s Deep Listening, through soundwalking, I learnd to accept that everything is already there.
[Read our Pauline Oliveros interview]
That my main instrument should be my listening, wich allows me to participate and share a sonic space, active as a musician or listener.
What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surrounding have influenced your sonic preferences?
TJ: Obviously it has shaped me in some way. In Basel, I was in a circle of artist friends and musicians sometime in the 90s who had an impact on my activities. There were several self-organised pockets in this scene. What was interesting, when I now look back on it, is how it was a lot of art and music creativity that was just a bunch of people trying out different kinds of things. You could say that it was a rather naive time but also a period of genuine DIY experimentation. Whether it worked or not was not really crucial. It was more about exchanging and testing out ideas, and also a way to rally people together to make something exciting.
For me, one significant shift was when I was introduced to electronic music through friends, since collaborating with them initially led to new sonic possibilities. It opened a whole new other dimension for me, sort of like experiencing new tastes and smells.
Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
TJ: This is an interesting thing to consider. In my case, I have invested in being part of a tradition by learning a repertoire and studying with teachers, as is the case with my instrumental studies in Shakuhachi and Double Bass. On the contrary, at the same time, I’m always trying to create tension and explore something on the other end of the spectrum. I have this urge to find expression in unconventional sounds.
Also as a Swiss person, I have always felt somewhat uncertain what my roots are. I don’t feel the strong presence of a deep sense of tradition. I have grown up sometimes with the feeling that we lack the ‘cool’ of musicians from other parts of the world. This is totally subjective and obviously untrue. I am probably deeply rooted in certain traditions that I may not even be aware of.
CM: By choosing my instrument - the oud - I spent many years understanding and learning a tradition that had developed orally over several centuries.
Today I am much more interested in finding my own approach and expression with this instrument to experience that first attraction to sound again. Independent of history and tradition. And yet all of this flows into the music; where i lived, what i heard ...
And then I`m always fascinated when complementary things (unexpected or planned) come together for a moment. Either to unite or create friction.
What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
TJ: I used to reject a lot of sounds but having had the opportunity to make music in so many different contexts, has made me experiment and embrace a lot more now than in the past. I don’t think there is a sound these days that I would not find interesting.
There was a period in my life where every 80s and 90s sounding synth would be a no go. But now, I don’t even struggle with this anymore.
CM: I really enjoy exploring all the acoustic possibilities of my instrument, whether it's a tone, its overtones, the attack, the wood, the noise qualities of the strings, accidents ... By amplifying I prefer to use good quality microphones, to capture as much of that richness as possible. And then I like subtle effects, to alienate or enhance some of the these acoustic qualities.
Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?
TJ: Ideally, I would gather, play and organise sounds from acoustic and electronic instruments. I also like working with objects and materials, as well as field recordings.
CM: I find most of my sounds by improvising. In a state where I try to allow everything that comes, without judging it, without wanting too much.
The harder part is to recreate them, keeping that vibrancy of the first discovery. They become my tools, my repertoire.
From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?
TJ: I look at sound colour or timbre if you will. Musical phrases and sequences are also ways of structuring the duo’s material.
Christian and I often begin with improvisation and gradually shape and work out the structure. It’s rather instinctive. Due to the two instruments of bass and oud, we also tend to write according to the frequency spectrum we each occupy.
The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?
TJ: Tools are one thing, they are exceedingly helpful and very seductive. But what is more primary and interesting to nurture is our imagination. Nourishing this is complex and can be a rich and stimulating process.
How we hear sounds in our creative sphere is the act of always trying to resonate or articulate something we first get a glimpse of, in our dream or our subconscious.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
TJ: Every performance is a negotiation or renegotiation between these elements. We function differently every day. Every space demands micro adjustments in performance and it’s a relationship that is based on feedback.
The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?
TJ: Acoustic ecology and environmental listening are important movements. A fundamental component for me is, awareness. For example, in his essay "Sonic Creatures", Francisco López talked about “the very concreteness of sounds.”
[Read our Francisco López interview]
He describes sound as “things-by-themselves”, that “sounds are things as much as anything else.”
From this essay and these acoustic fields of research and art, the main idea that I am drawn towards, is that sound is experiential rather than an itemised catalogue of labels.