An Interest In Sound- Gruenrekorder Label Interview [2013-04-04]Gruenrekorder is a German based field recording, sound art & soundscape label. The label was formed in 2003 by university friends Lasse-Marc Riek & Roland Etzin, and over the last ten years the pair have released a wide range of quality bound field recordings & sound art releases from all over the world, making Gruenrekorder one of the most known & respected names with-in this field. Lasse & Roland kindly agreed to give M[m] an email interview about the labels past & future.
m[m]:Each tell us a little bit about how you first got involved in the field recording & Sound art genres?
Lasse It all started at home when I was a child, we would make music with instruments each weekend. We played 'house-music' as a family. I think it came from my grandpa who was a great improviser. Each player got an instrument and started to play. I think it was the very first introduction to listening to others, to rhythm, to timing etc.
Lasse From the mid-80s and mid-90s we lived in a house close to a forest in the north of Germany. It was a normal daily occurrence to go out for a walk and play in the forest. From year to year you could find many nice places, the frame of the forest itself and your own navigation of it. You needed to listen to the environment to navigate through it, especially if you didn't stick to the paths. During this time, as a child, I learned to listen to the directions of the forest and to its content.
Lasse Between 13 and 15, I began to go more and more often into the forest, alone and later and later into the night, because I loved to listening in the dark. Each sound was so incredibly distinct and different. You can't imagine all the sound that was there! It came from insects, bigger animals, birds, boar, deer, small snakes and from wind, heat and the cold. I think in these years I stored a lot about listening in nature, and made the decision to be a part of them all.
Lasse Since the age of 17 years old I’ve been seriously involved in experimenting with fine art. It became my way of life and a way for me to understand the world. Aside from this, I learned several trades before starting my studies in Frankfurt Am Main around 1999, when I moved from the North of Germany. My career developed as a freelance fine artist, engaged across several disciplines – eventually, I decided that working with sound was what I was most interested in. It comes naturally to me, like in my childhood... Later I connected with other folks who worked with sound and started to think and modulate my own focus in this forest of sound.
Roland There is no way around it, when you are interested in sound listening and producing you automatically come to field recording and soundart.
For me it was a great experience to record sound - like making pictures of the world around me. It is a way to express myself and to have a conversation with my environment.
m[m]: Tell us about how the Gruenrekorder label first came about, how you selected the name & what it means to you?
Lasse Roland and I met at the University of Applied Science around 2000 when we both happened to be out recording. This was our first encounter and from there we began the Gruenrekorder project, learning as we went along.
Lasse From 2000 to 2002/2003 we shared our experience and works with found sound, recording gear and the politics and poetics behind the genre. During these 3 years we started to researching the current stare of play of record labels and relevant organisations. It was clear that there were not than many opportunities to releases work that dealt with field recordings - there was no main label focused on soundscapes nor phonography.
Lasse Roland and myself decided to establish our own label as a platform to discuss, promote and publish field recording based soundworks. Beside that main focus we were also very open to all kind of experimental soundworks, too.
Lasse If you like to start a project, idea, mission or whatever, then you need a name, a logo; something to show to the outside world and to project a symbol for the audience. So we started to exchange ideas about a name for our label; at the end of the process, we were exhausted from looking for a good name that would describe all our ideas. I remember it: it was weekday, Roland and I were sitting in his kitchen talking about the next steps and then we suddenly had the idea to combine a found word from each other. After a few minutes, Roland had come up with "gruen" and I suggested "rekorder." So the name was born and the label had found its identity.
Lasse Gruen (the German word for green) staying outside, eco-friendly, close to nature or thinking about what nature is or will be or was. Recording animals and landscapes and the elements in between...
Lasse Rekorder (german word for recorder) the gear itself, the technique, the strategy, writing sound, archiving sound, doing something with devices...
Lasse We started by applying for a "label code", a tax number and so in a very offical and serious way we set about the very tiny indie idea of releasing: birdsongs, the sound of elements, ultrasonics etc.
Lasse It was not the very first step into field recording or soundwork in culture. But what we were doing was enough of a rarity that it was always very intense to venture out on stage and get straight into the idea of listening and how to stay in the field with recording-gear.
Lasse There where people like Dan Sampson/solitutes, Walter Tilgner/germany, Steven Feld/usa and Bernie Krause/usa to name a few, who had worked for a long in that field. To me these activists starts to open up the listening perspective after it had been to a certain extent isolated in the scientific archives of ethnomusicolgy and bioacoustics, but you had to search them out. The next generation where more available, more easy to locate. Now we as the third generation who have been working with found sound since the 80's, we are looking back at the last 15 years and can see that things have started to slowly open up, to be accepted in the art world and also in the commercial world.
m[m]:Who’s involved in the label running? And who does what? And do you each have set jobs?
Lasse In the early beginnings, in 2002/2003, we worked with nearly 10 different people over just one year. After learning from the experience of releasing material and discussing our way forward, the number of releases has reduced down. Up until now we have been working with a lot of different studios, different designers, different people doing a lot of work.
Lasse The main decisions are made and the main work is done by Roland and myself. Since the end of 2012, we have employed two assistants and who work in the different capacities that an independent label like us requires.
m[m]:Who decides on what will be released on the label? Is it just one person or a group of people who decides?
Lasse Roland and I receive a copy of every demo and one day every month we just send each other a list with the results of listening to what we have been sent! If our decisions are different, we then discuss the pros and cons till we finally agree for or against.
m[m]:Please each choose you favourite ten releases on the label thus far & explain why they are?
Lasse As I see it, within the field of sound there is no such thing as a best release. From my perspective and from our experience with the label, what is 'best' depends upon the individual listener who ultimately decides what is closest to them...
Lasse When I have the time and space to listen back to the releases, I often discover surprising new relationships to our previous records, spurring me to return to the back catalogue again and again. Each Gruenrekorder release takes its story from the first listening all the way to the first review and then beyond. Throughout this narrative, the relation to the artist is very important and intense and this is what I like a lot.
Roland It is not about me and my tastes it is the artist who is so close to the work. When you see it this way you are on the right path.
So I could name the last ten releases on Gruenrekorder especially: “SOUNDS LIKE SILENCE – Cage/4’33"/Stille – 1912–1952–2012” which is a great introduction and statement of the genre.
m[m]:How do you think the sound art/ field recording genre has changed in the ten years Gruenrekorder has been in existence?
Lasse When I look back at the last fifteen years of my own work with phonography and field recording, I can see that the genre is rising in popularity. A significant part of this is the availability of media platforms and devices that enable content, concepts and ideas to be easily managed. For example, a handheld recorder doesn't cost more than 90 Euros and net-based distribution systems are there for free. This doesn’t necessarily bring about an increase in quality, but there is certainly a greater quantity of material out there to reflect upon. From my point of view, the current situation allows us to learn from each other; there are fewer barriers between us and the development of more ways of thinking and working with sound.
Lasse Because I have been giving a lot of guest lectures, workshops and seminars, I am in a position to realize that there is a growing appetite from universities for the creation of both sound lab-based institutes and curricula involving the study of sound. I know from these experiences that these universities are placing field recording and the art of listening right at the centre of things.
Roland There has been a growth in the amount of recordings coming out during the last years. So it is hard sometimes to get the overview. But I feel very proud to be part of this development and movement. For the future I'm very curious which directions it will take.
m[m]: This year is the labels ten anniversary- are you putting out any special release to or lining-up any festivals to celebrate this anniversary?
Lasse We are planning a printed publication which is looking back at the last 10 years of Gruenrekorder. We are currently assembling all the information and material that we need for this.
Lasse Regarding the "ten anniversary" we are looking forward to have some small events at the second half of the year, I guess.
Lasse In February 2013 we had a one hour broadcast on one of the main radio stations in Germany called Hessischer Rundfunk, on the show Artist Corner. It was an invitation from Michael Rüsenberg (a german writer and soundscape composer) who produced an hour about Gruenrekorder with an interview and a showcase of some sounds from the recent records.
Lasse Maybe there will be more like this during the year. We are happy to stay with the idea and the label and hopefully we will get support and power for the next 10 years or so...
m[m]: What have you got lined for the next six or so months on the label?
Lasse The following are the releases which are in the pipeline right now:
Lasse-Marc Riek / Helgoland CD / Gruen 109
Daniel Blinkhorn / terra subfónica CD / Gruen 117
Sebastiane Hegarty / Winnall Moors Soundwalk #01 Spring Download
Merzouga / 52°North13°East -- Music for Wax-Cylinders CD / Gruen 124
Cathy Lane / The Hebrides Suite CD
Christina Kubisch / Kamerun CD / (TBA)
Christoph Korn & Lasse-Marc Riek / Series Invisible, Collection 2 Book /
Antje Vowinckel / Terra Prosodia CD / Gruen 125
Dr.Döring & Konrad Korabiewski / Locker Vinyl / Skálar 002 / Gruen 126
Thanks to both Lasse & Roland for their & efforts with the interview. The labels website can be found here