Anne Chris Bakker &
How To Breathe Like a Stone
How To Breathe Like a Stone:
AH: I hope one of being aware of the quiet little moments of serendipity in music. I also love to improvise with others. There is a magic that happens when things go well.
ACB: My work has a strong relation to the landscape where I live. Somehow the landscape reverberates into the work. I'm strongly worrying about the state of the world and the ecologic crisis we are in. This tension between the longing for serenity and the crisis we are in somehow reflects my work.
AV: What is it about music that makes you feel passionate about the writing and performing of your own compositions?
AH: Music has the ability to take you to a very special place. For me, it’s a compulsion to create that pushes me forward. To create a beautiful sonic space to inhabit for at least some of the time.
ACB: Music is such a powerful medium. It has the ability to lift you up and bring you to new places. It can also be a very abstract medium and has the power to lift things to a whole new perspective. I guess this makes me want to write and perform music.
ACB: Mostly I start with looping a small section of sound. Mostly a guitar or piano. I also tend to start with a drone or loop which I start to process with guitar pedals or software. Somehow it feels like the music dictates itself. For me it works the same as it works for Andrew, it's important to step away from the work for a while. It is a very helpful way to understand what choices further to make in creation of a piece.
AV: Tell me about your work with Chris/Andrew and how it began as a musical project that caught and held your attention.
AH: Chris and I met when, after hearing his work via a friend, I invited Chris to play in the UK’s Resound festival that I was curating. This cemented a friendship and mutual admiration of each other’s music. I then visited Chris in the north of the Netherlands for a week of inspired improvisation - spending our time gathering field recordings, composing and of course, cycling. I see our collaboration not as a single thing but as a journey via many albums allowing us to really explore this landscape we inhabit together.
ACB: Andrew invited me to play at the Resound festival where he was one of the curators. Andrew and I felt immediately a great link with each other. Both sharing the same fascination for found sound and a love for tape. In the work of Andrew and mine the landscape plays a huge role. We both understand and feel the beauty of the space between sounds. So, I felt very natural to begin this ongoing journey. Besides all of this, Andrew has become a great friend. He and his wife are two of the friendliest people I have ever met.
AV: Do you draw any musical influences from outside of ambient music and how do you make use of them & integrate them into your own music?
So the fundamentals are the same, that of improvisation to create the main sound and structure of a piece followed by detailed re-working. Listening is a huge part of improvising with others and being able to ‘allow’ others to fill and space or to guide direction. Collaboration is always greater than the sum of its parts.
ACB: I can't add a lot more to Andrew's description of our process of collaboration but I guess, spending time together, taking long walks, and cycling has probably given me more room for experimenting with different ideas.
AV: What is your go to instrument that will always coax the best music out of you?
AH: I hope the piano!… although I’m not in any way trained or indeed a good player. The piano seems to be the instrument that for me allows my to speak to an audience better than anything else.
ACB: In much of my work I used the guitar as my main instrument. Although I’m not very good in playing it, it's the instrument where I feel the most confident with. In a way I learned a new language by playing the guitar with a cello bow. And maybe this will bring me at a certain point to playing the cello.
On the other hand, I love the piano. It is a very appealing instrument to me. The last few years I used the piano more often in my work. There is a whole new world to opening up to me when it comes to this instrument. I hope to explore this more often in the coming years.
AV: What is it that you absolutely love about the composing/playing or recording of your music?
AH: It takes me to a place that I love to go to.
ACB: It's something which always brings you to something unexpected. Something which is beyond your control. That makes composing and improvising so interesting. I never know the outcome of an album when I start working on it. Music slowly generates its form within the composing process.Composing an album brings me in a certain mood and it often brings back memories/images. It's interesting what music does with the brain. But composing can also be a struggle in the process of trial and error.
AV: Was there an overall concept behind how to breathe like a stone? Tell me about what was going through your mind as you worked on the album & the individual songs and how you saw them fitting together.
AH: There was no overall concept. I don’t think there is to our music. Simply that we love to illustrate or give light to environments or landscapes or weather patterns. In fact the weather when we were working in Chris’s studio was a typical November day… so that seemed completely appropriate. As the album neared completion it simply remained to select which pieces would work and flow together as you might unfold a map or read a book.
AV: Other than musical ability are there other disciplines or characteristics that help to make you a good composer or musician? Explain.
AH: It’s important to stay focused but I think a key discipline for me is coming from a visual background which I hope helps guide me and maybe gives my work a different and unique feel.
ACB: I'm a social worker. That means that I'm dealing with people in problematic situations. Most of the day I’m very focused in listening to what and how they are telling things. This focus in listening and my experiences in my work probably reflect through the music.
AV: How has the pandemic affected the physical process of creating a collaborative album like this? If there had been no restrictions would a project like this have been done in person?
AH: The pandemic has definitely affected work flow. I’d like to think that we would have had more times together to meet and review how the album was progressing but that wasn’t possible. However, we are used to working with a system of file exchanges - ‘How to breathe like a stone’ is our third album - so I don’t think it meant we needed to find a new way of working.
AV: How have you grown and how has your music changed from when you first started composing/playing music and has any of these changes surprised you?
AH: I hope I’ve become technically better. I’ve also learnt to step back from what I do and look at it, much the same as an artist always steps away from their canvas. And, to a certain extent, my work is influenced by life events be they lighter or darker times and that is often a surprise or certainly unexpected.
ACB: Sometimes I tend to sink in a web of too many ideas, this can make the process in making an album an exhausting path. I have learned in the process of making an album to stick to a few ideas and be less in control so the sound can dictate its path.
Interestingly, Chris and I have been further collaborating with Mi Cosa de Resistance who is based in Argentina and this has been made entirely possible because of the internet and zoom meetings etc. - incidentally that album will be out early next year!
AV: What is a question that you wish interviewers would ask you about your music or your life as a musician? How would you answer that question?
AH: A very good question!… I’m fascinated by how artists find and maintain a work / life balance. Most of the musicians I know, myself included, work part time to help fund what we do - and I often find that the topic of conversation between artists always drifts into that question at some point. But, also I find the influence of different artistic disciplines on music interesting and so maybe, if your work was an artist, who would that be?… that might be a revealing one! Not sure if I should answer it though…
ACB: I hope the question is related to the world where we live in today. What does it mean in be being alive in times like these? How do you relate yourself as an artist to a world in global crisis?
AV: Thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to Ambient Visions and share your ideas about the music that you make. I appreciate your time and your answers. I wish you both much success in the years to come and a hope that we can begin to find our way back to normal after this last year of pandemic.
Written and produced by Andrew Heath and Anne Chris Bakker