Anne Chris Bakker &
Andrew Heath

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Visit Anne Chris Bakker's website


How To Breathe Like a Stone




















How To Breathe Like a Stone:
Ambient Visions Talks with....
Andrew Heath & Anne Chris Bakker
©2021 Ambient Visions

AV:  What role did music play in your early life and as part of your overall family?  

AH: Very little in my early life actually. My parents were not musical at all but I remember the ‘Planets Suite’ by Holst being played quite regularly so maybe something influenced me… funnily enough, I remember environmental sounds from my childhood more which has certainly influenced the use of field recordings in my work. My background is as a designer and my wife is an artist, so maybe my approach to music comes from a more visual place. 

ACB:  My parents didn't have a serious interest in music or art. So, I wasn't surrounded by music at all when I was growing up. But somehow at a very early age I developed an interest for music. I remember my search for music when I was young. I discovered that the most interesting music on the radio was played at night so I tried to record lots of music on my cassette deck.  I didn't have the money to buy records, instead I went to the library and borrowed the records.

It was during this period that I started to play guitar. One day I stumbled upon a compilation - a cd by Sonic Youth. This dissonant sound had a huge impact on me. This sound brought me to Jim O'Rourke and slowly I found a whole new world of sound.

AV:  What strengths do you possess that makes your music special?  


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.

AV:  What is it about ambient music that pulled you to it originally and keeps you playing it day after day, year after year? 

AH:  Ambient music can be very cerebral by its nature. I first became aware of music like this before I heard of the term ‘ambient music’. For me it’s like a painting or a landscape that can unfold before you and it allows you to set your own narrative rather than something too prescriptive. 

ACB:  I can't say that my music is typical ambient. I think it lies somewhere between the lines of minimal, experimental and ambient music. Andrew's explanation of ambient music in terms of a landscape or a paining couldn’t be better. Ambient music has an openness and gives meaning to thebeauty of familiar and unfamiliar sounds.

AV:  Walk me through what it is like from when you get a spark of a new idea for music and how it goes from that spark to something tangible on a hard drive?

:  I very often start with field recordings. I will layer and treat different sounds before turning to the piano. I often find that pieces develop in a similar way. I will build and construct parts, adding in as the music dictates. At this point I become quite excited but I’ve learnt that it’s quite good to then step away from the work. With this pause, comes the realisation that further editing is most definitely needed and I will then take away parts or sections until I’m left with a finished piece. 

Anne Chris Bakker

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? 

Andrew Heath field recording in Herefordshire

AH:  The music I listen to is very diverse at times, whether it has an influence on my own work is hard to tell. More so that I’m influenced by visual art and landscape. Film music is interesting to me because of the way that it works in conjunction with images and I’ve greatly enjoyed the opportunities that I’ve had working with other visual artists. 

ACB:  I think all the music that I’ve listened to has influenced me. Something that I keep listening to is Morton Feldman. The drone music of Sarah Davachi is great as well. Last year I discovered the piano works of Michael Vincent Waller, which is great. This morning I am listening to Karh Bloom and like Andrew, visual art and landscape is a constant source of inspiration.

AV:  Tell me about the dynamics of doing a collaboration like you did with How to Breathe Like a Stone. What is the same about your process and what changes as you work with another musician? 

AH:  Our work together always starts from the same point. We sit down and improvise. It’s hugely important to have that time together in order to explore ideas and sounds intuitively and quickly. The fact that we live in different countries means that developing and editing those initial recordings has to take place at a distance.  

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:  One of the more unusual recordings on the album was made at the Kröller Müller museum in The Netherlands in the large sculpture room. Tell me about why you chose that location. How did that location change the nature of the music you were recording and how happy were you with the results? 

AH:  Very happy with the results! The Kröller Müller museum is an amazing building with lots of light and open spaces. It’s set in a huge area of parkland and being in The Netherlands, you have to walk or cycle through it to get there! We both love the architecture of the place and in fact went to see their collection as there are some amazing works of art there. We will always carry our field recorders with us and it just happened that at the close of the day, we found ourselves in the sculpture room (hence ‘after Kapoor’) where the building was creating this beautiful sound. Creaking and clicking, I imagine as the building was heating up or cooling down… We had to keep very still and quiet so ended up lying on the floor with our recorders some way away from us. The security guards were very interested and kept a keen eye on us indeed! 

Andrew Heath

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.

Andrew & Chris

AV:  When you do collaborative work with other artists does that alter your perceptions of how you approach music as well?

AH:  Oh most certainly. It’s a very important factor in changing and holding the way you approach your own work as well. Engaging in collaboration is how we all grow and develop as artists. You always take a little bit of a collaboration and plant it in your own music. 

ACB:  Collaborating with others means also that you leave a bit your solo comfort zone behind and this is a very learning experience.

AV:  An ever-evolving question but how has the internet impacted and changed the ambient music community over the years? 

AH:  Gosh, I guess hugely! But, I think it has impacted all music and arts based activities. One such way is practical, in that you can throw huge audio files across the world instantly which still impresses me - however, it’s been amazing for bringing like minded people together.

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
Acoustic and Electric Pianos, Electronics, Treatments and Field Recordings by Andrew Heath
Guitars, Electronics, Tape Manipulation and Field Recordings by Anne Chris Bakker
Artwork by Andrew Heath
Cover Photography by Renske Zijlstra license