BRAUN is a remarkable improvisation duo that moves between order and chaos in music. Raun Juurikas and Brian Quinn are fascinated by Rooms – sensing the nature of different locations becomes the gateway to the music. The environment is of course the space, but also the moment. This is the reason they search for extreme rooms like the Lepontine Alps or an ex youth camp for orphans. They seek for places, start to improvise and film it. The result is alluring – majestic and ambient vibes flow between soundscapes of IDM, jazz and downtempo. The power of improvisation takes the listener to a whole new level of sensing music. For a musician, the lack of knowledge about one’s future steps is risky but at the same time intoxicating. Playing music can become a potential catastrophe or potential perfection, this far BRAUN has served only quality. Please meet and greet the improvisational duo BRAUN!
Introduce yourselves. What roles and instruments are you playing in the band?
Raun: I play electronic keyboards and all pitched instrumental roles deriving from it by layering the improvised material in the looper.
Brian: I play the drums and cover the broad rhythmic aspects. In BRAUN, I like to think of my drumming as being layered, although it is performed instantaneously, without any technical device for layering or overdubbing; this requires a mindshift at the instrument and I am still perfecting it. I strive to superimpose finer, more intricate rhythmic layers over simpler, more evident ones. Raun uses a lot of rhythmic elements in his playing as well: he adds the clockwork, some elegant rhythmic filigree on top.
To have a small peek in your background, how and when did you start making music?
Brian: I started taking my instrument seriously when I was eleven, and started making actual music around twenty. I started making real music, music I could call my own, at about thirty.
Raun: I have studied music since I was 4, but found my personal passion towards music when I was around 10. Try not to laugh now – I got inspired by Enigma song called “Sadness”… Again, I was around 10. I think that is the moment when I started wanting to imitate the combination of harmony and sound.
What is BRAUN, when and why was the duo born?
Raun: Me and Brian discovered that both of us are into certain electronic music aesthetics and there is no point to waste that special contact. We have similar aesthetics sitting inside.
Braun is a collaboration to influence the progression of time without having any preparation time to do that. By adhering to the nice type of stress it causes, we aim to tilt our consciousness away from the present by letting subconsciousness talk thru instant composing.
This is also the reason to the birth of Braun – we both needed to go further from consciousness-secured forms that jazz relies on. As we are trained and active jazz musicians, we pinpoint faster between order and chaos in sonic arts. This is very useful for totally free improvisation as it is easy to slip and get lost into highly subjective sound that should be called music.
Brian: BRAUN is a musical context to which each one of us can bring and share the fruits of his own musical and instrumental research. I first heard Raun on an album given to me by a common friend I had hosted at a festival. Then I heard Raun live and he gave me his album “Armada”, which amazed me. Thus I had known for a while – before we finally met in Tallinn to jam in 2015 – that I would have to play with Raun. We share aesthetics, we aim at the same musical destinations, we understand life similarly.
What is your main band philosophy?’
Raun: We call the venues or weird places Rooms. By sensing the nature of the Room it becomes the gateway to the music. That is the reason we search for extreme Rooms like Griestep or Villagio. The strong aesthetics of these places trigger the music well. Of course a Room can also be an ordinary venue. The trick is to still enter the gateway by imagination.
Thinking in terms of rooms, going to rooms, sharing the rooms.
One of the outstanding features of BRAUN is definitely improvisation, what do you feel when you improvise?
Brian: Personally, when I improvise I perceive it as a very intense sustained intellectual effort, from which conditions arise that trigger emotions. The emotions feed back into the cycle, but the intellectual process is predominant. The image that comes closest to this process is that of cinematic slow-motion: the perception of time seems to be quantized at a much more dense rate. One continually processes incoming data, makes split-second decisions and reacts accordingly, while at the same time maintaining the broad overview. In improvisation, the lack of knowledge about one’s future steps is at the same time disarming and exhilarating.
By Freudian way I would say I feel relief. By street sense, I feel high. By analytic way, I feel floating somewhere between almost visual (not visible) thingies who also happen to be good friends of mine. We understand each other quite well. They are mostly simple minded folks with nice bit of idealism. And when they act bad I delete them because there’s more coming.
So far, I think your repertoire includes modern intelligent electronics, jazz and downtempo. Are those the main directions, or your improvisations can go on really different music genre paths?
Raun: I guess these directions happen to be the outcome of our reflexes. We tend to rely on those and when we happen to go elsewhere it has to have an aesthetical reason.
Brian: Yes, I agree on the sources you list. Jazz has been the main study subject for both of us – I’m still getting rid of some jazz automatisms, while IDM, downtempo, ambient etc are our current fields of research. Improvisation could lead us anywhere – stylistically speaking – within the confines of our musical knowledge and instrumental proficiency, but we make some very clean-cut choices about where to venture and what is definitely off boundary.
One of you lives in Estonia, the other in Switzerland. It can be deemed as a long distance relationship. How do you manage to do rehearsals over long distance, and how often do you get together?
Brian: I had been struck by the maturity and elegance of Raun’s musical conception and his use of and ability in free improvisation. Because of these qualities I knew I could start a collaboration with him that wouldn’t require spending great amounts of joint rehearsal time, and would finally let me apply my most recent personal instrumental developments in a completely non-predefined and effortless manner. One could say our rehearsals are our individual practice hours. Logistic and economic factors determine that we work project-wise and that we fit the most we possibly can into the moments we are physically in the same room.
Raun: I like what Brian usually says when this question is asked – “It’s called Ryanair!”
So how does your rehearsal look like?
It looks like a concert. Otherwise the Room is noisy which causes the gateway to be locked. But as we improvise we cannot practice the unknown. Only thing we can practice is how to get to the condition of improvising.
When does one improvisation duo know that they are ready to go on stage with confidence that their creation is sounding good?
Raun: I think the concentration and incoming stream of ideas create the confidence. Again, we need to get to the condition.
Brian: I don’t think this can objectively be known.
In this lies the enormous risk that a band like BRAUN runs, that very few agree to run, as there is no guarantee whatsoever of doing things absolutely right, no guarantee of success, no guarantee of any kind basically. The risk carries in itself an equal proportion of potential catastrophe and potential perfection.
A good night, therefore, will be exceptionally so, and absolutely unique at the same time; the emotional reward for us and the audience will be great. Whenever a low hits, though, it will be very low. However, our knowledge of our craft, experience, chemistry, degree of personal preparation will help us steer a right course.
You are fascinated by Rooms, obviously. Your “Griestep” video has been filmed in majestic nature, in the mountains, where the strangeness of power lines gives location a lot of contrast. Music was born on the spot, of course. Do different environments add much to music that is being created in the moment?
Brian: This is an excellent question. It implicitly confirms that which we mean to convey through our videos, and hope to render more explicit as we will publish more: the music is the environment. We try to draw the totality of inputs for our improvised songs/sets from the environment. The environment is of course the space, but also the moment, that is all that we can read inside and outside of ourselves in that instant.
How would you describe the impact of different locations on music, are you on a mission in finding out?
Raun: Certainly, we are on that mission. I think the impact is very important and it is very hard to describe it with words as the impact is subconscious.
Mostly we get to choose ourselves the locations we perform at; that is the only act of predefining that we exert on what we are going to play.
It is a very vague kind of a priori assessment. The motor of creativity is motivation, so of course we pick locations that motivate us, that convey a mood, an idea.
How did you come up with an idea of creating you first video in the Lepontine Alps?
Brian: Personally I wanted to find out what the experience would be like of having to instantaneously invent some music in an environment that I know well, but as a mountaineer, not as a musician. Those peaks, the glacier in the video, I know from my mountaineering, and they give me very strong emotions: what would it be like to make music in that same place, and what kind of music would result? I honestly couldn’t tell until we tried, and since it was a project so much rooted in coincidence – in which so much could go wrong, or tremendously right – we decided we would document it in audio and video. Raun is the only man and artist with whom I could risk such an operation, and count on his full insight and enthusiasm. The exact same holds true for Gionata Zanetta, the video artist: we actually regard ourselves as a trio. Gionata’s input on the creative process is great, except in the instant we play music. In our “guerrilla-video shooting” there are big technical difficulties involved which Raun and Gionata master excellently.
Do you have a new location in mind and maybe even filmed?
Raun: Brian has some ideas and he will surprise me soon!
Brian: Once we had “Griestep”, we knew we were hooked on something. The “snapshot” nature, the emotional kick of “force-reading” a location through music incited us to spot new locations. Suddenly, location had become a source of motivation, of creativity, so finding a new location would provide BRAUN with continuity. We have a second video ready now, filmed in an ex youth camp for orphans built by the fascists after World War 1 – which is probably enough information to expect something entirely different from “Griestep”. Even technically, Gionata has adopted a completely different language.
What is BRAUN doing today and are there any future plans?
Braun is always searching for Rooms. Once again, Rooms are the gateways to create and get inspired. This is vital for BRAUN, everything else clings to that.
Brian: We are planning a third video, very different again, this time on a waterfront. My personal hopes for BRAUN are to keep reinventing itself, as we individual musicians develop in coherence to our personal instrumental and musical research; to keep dreaming up new contexts for BRAUN’s music while maintaining the intellectual and emotional elasticity to follow them through. One development I envisage is the further development of our musical reading of the woodcuts by artist František Kupka (1871-1957), leading to an album publication. Another development could be the redefinition of BRAUN’s use of video.