By Will McGuirk
In between working and recording with Evening Hymns, Jonas Bonnetta has been working and recording his own solo work. Bonnetta's debut ambient album, "All This Here" will be released Apr 27 2018 on Idea of North Records. The record began as the score to the documentary film "Strange And Familiar: Architecture On Fogo Island". The doc was directed by Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight. It tells the story of architect Todd Saunders and his design and construction of the Fogo Island Inn as well as artist studios on the island, which is part of Newfoundland.
Slowcity.ca interviewed Bonnetta by email.
SlowCity.ca: How did it come about you were chosen to score the documentary on Fogo?
JB: "The editor of the film tempted in some of my music and the producers connected with the piece and wanted to use it. This lead to a discussion about me writing new pieces to fit the film. I got lucky. I was given a tonne of footage from the film to score to and it was the first time I think that I was actually working with visuals to create the music. The landscape of Fogo Island is so incredibly inspiring that it made the job such a joy. I also got to see the film transform as the editors cut the film multiple times trying to tell the story. It was a lot of me sitting in the studio making drones while staring at the ocean crashing."
SC: Do you think sound creates a sense of place, a uniqueness? Was it that voice you were seeking?
JB: "I truly do. That's what I have been after with this record and with my field recording practice. I have been using field recordings for years. They've been embedded on every record I've made with my band Evening Hymns and they're central to my workflow with my ambient project. I believe that embedding these sounds helps to establish the listener in the place that I'm writing for/about. Because so much of my ambient work is based on place it's integral that I grab sounds from those places. It's also very important for me to put headphones on and walk in these places and listen in this magnified way to get a sense of what the soundscape is and how important those sounds are with the identity of the place. That practice has become it's own beast for me now. I'm amassing such a huge catalogue of sounds from places I travel to. It's obsessive and I'm not sure exactly how I'll use them yet but they seem to be useful from time to time. I edited a bunch of sounds from Barcelona, Palma, and Dawson City together last year for World Listening Day so I guess I find homes for these pieces" (See Soundcloud link below)
SC: Why did you want the ambient random sounds around the recordings, why was anchoring the sound in a certain time important?
JB: "Well my process starts with the collecting and foraging for sounds. These are then manipulated using software called lloopp in max/msp and then from there I begin improvising over the abstracted field recordings. Those are guiding me in a sense. I just got back from Fogo last week where we drove up and down the island multiple times listening to the record and I think it really fits that landscape and all those "ambient random sounds" are from that place whether it's a mic dropped into the bushes along the ocean or a dog barking on a back porch in Joe Batt's Arm. I like to remember the places I go by the sounds I hear. Because all the music I make is initially a selfish act this is my way of triggering those memories for me and taking me back to my amazing time on Fogo Island."
(I paid a visit to Jonas some years back when he was working for composer R. Murray Schafer on an on-site art project)
SC: That was a great day spent with you at Schafer's. Tell me about his book, "The Tuning of the World" and how it has affected your musical journey?
JB: "Well "The Tuning Of The World" really just helped give me an awareness of the importance of the soundscape. It made me open my ears more, got me thinking about the sounds that are around us constantly and how they infest our lives, for good or bad. He also talks about how the soundscape has changed and that's an interesting thing to think about. Would love to spend my life "archiving" the soundscape of Fogo or somewhere like that to see how it changes over the course of 50 years. His book definitely inspired me to listen deeper which has led me to making more field recordings and paying more attention to what is happening around me sonically. This of course is great for me on so many levels. It's meditative. It helps my music. Inspires me. It most definitely grounds me.
"I've recently returned from 10 days in Big Sur, California, where I'm making a similar record to "All This Here" in the sense that we collected field recordings from all over the coast and then improvised over them. I had Schafer's book with me there and it helped guide our thinking while we were working. It's a really nice practice to share the recording process with people and to watch their awareness of the soundscape change. I was working with this amazing violinist Edwin Huizinga in California and he participated in the recordings out in the woods and by the ocean and he became almost childlike in his excitement for hearing this familiar place with a completely different set of ears. I think that most people would benefit from taking mics into the woods and listening closer to what's around us."
Q: So far you are playing the Drake on May 27, any other shows coming up?
JB: "Yes! Ottawa on the 24th of May, Montreal on the 25th and hoping for a show on the 26th too. We've got some other cool things to announce as we get closer to the shows too."