Name: Eraldo Bernocchi
Occupation: Composer, producer, sound artist, label founder at Rare Noise
Current Release: Eraldo Bernocchi's new release under his Sigillum S moniker, Coalescence Of Time: Other Conjectures On Future, which also features his collaborators Paolo L. Bandera and Bruno Dorella, is out via Subsound.
If you enjoyed this interview with Eraldo Bernocchi and would like to stay up to date on his music and creative activities, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
Over the years, Eraldo has worked with many different artists. Here is a selection of features with past collaborators:
[Read our Colin Edwin interview]
[Read our Gaudi interview]
[Read our Markus Stockhausen interview]
[Read our Nils Petter Molvaer interview]
We also recommend our earlier 15 Questions interview with Eraldo Bernocchi.
Can you talk a bit about your interest in or fascination for sound? What were early experiences which sparked it and what keeps sound interesting for you?
I "stole" The Exorcist from my mother when I was 12 years old. I was terrified while reading it (the movie is still really good but compared to book, it is lame). Every night, I couldn't wait to get into bed and read that book, and because I'm a fast reader, it was finished in no time. I read it again, this time imagining what sound those pages may make.
Mike Olfield's "Tubular Bells" was amazing, but not at all what I had envisioned for the book. Not for the book, but for the movie. Kiss, Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream, and Black Sabbath were all found at the same moment. Pieces began to fall into place and without even realising it I was trapped in the sound obsession I’m living with since then.
[Read our Tangerine Dream interview]
What's your take on how your upbringing and cultural surrounding have influenced your sonic preferences?
It was a horror growing up in a place where the "Italian song" "Canzone Italiana" ruled everything, until I found other music and sounds.
I was highly influenced to oppose that, and I turned down everything.
Do you see yourself as part of a tradition or historic lineage when it comes to your way of working with sound?
I don’t know. I’m doing what I’m doing, most of the time out of emotions and feelings.
I started with tape recorders, tearing them apart and hacking the motor to control speed modifying (mostly burning …) the volume circuits to distort and destroy the sound quality.
Going from intelligibility to unknown territories was my goal. Sometimes it worked. Other time it was a complete disaster.
What types of sound do you personally prefer to work with? Are there sounds you reject – if so, for what reasons?
As long as I perceive and feel power and energy, anything goes for me. It isn’t necessarily a question of volume or hard sounds, it’s about the feelings, the emotions.
I’m usually annoyed by clusters of sounds: Italian songs, latin American music, jazz standards arranged in a “lift and airplane” style, the usual background wallpapers music you that is normally broadcasted through small speakers with no life in it. That’s annoying me.
I do really like pop if it’s well made. My 8 years old daughter plays me a lot of interesting new music in that field, K-Pop, Billie Eilish (I love the voice of that girl …)
Where do you find the sounds you're working with? How do you collect and organise them?
It really depends what I’m working on, if it’s something conceptual or not. I can slap a piece of meat to create a snare, a dead meat snare. Or I can work on specific frequencies to give life to an esoteric formula linked to numerology. On the other hand, I can work on a bass sound and fall in love with it, resulting in an entire track in a single day. If I come across something that tangles me up, I preserve it, record it, and give it a name. It could be sitting in a folder for years and then bloom in a track.
These pieces for example is created only with tibetan ritual instruments and field recordings of funerals where the corpse is chopped to pieces and left for the vultures.
Some artists use sounds as a means for emotional self-expression, others take a more conceptual approach or want to present intriguing sound matter. How would you characterise your own goals and motivations in this regard?
I’m working on both sides of the fence. It depends which project is on my radar.
Very often when working with Sigillum S the conceptual approach rules the kingdom, the emotional one is more directed toward ambient and soundtracks outputs.
From the point of view of your creative process, how do you work with sounds?
Sound comes before anything else for me, as I've stated various times. I approach sounds differently depending on the project; for example, most of my guitar sounds aren't recognised as such. Everything is approached as an oscillator, a synth VCO. I use the music that transmits emotions and energy once I get it. It's raw stuff that I enjoy working with.
When I work on the more guitar oriented projects I use multiple effect and try to create sounds that can stand the test of “solitude”: if you solo that guitar in the mix it still sounds meaningful and I’ll use it. This is track where most of the sounds are coming from guitar.
Which tools have been most important and useful for you when it comes to working with and editing sounds?
When it comes to editing, my Mac and some software. When I work with sounds I like to treat them beyond recognition. I use a lot of filters , guitar pedals, racks and even objects sometimes.
On 23/20 by Sigillum S I captured the sound of about 100 flies I trapped in a glass jar and then treated them using pitch shifting and reverbs. The result is a gnarling monster emitting the full frequency spectrum and constantly moving in terms of harmony and melody.
The possibilities of modern production tools have allowed artists to realise ever more refined or extreme sounds. Is there a sound you would personally like to create but haven't been able to yet?
The sound of disaster, the call of apocalypse, the depth of sorrow, the nothingness and despair of the existence, the sound of falling in love, the power and tragedy of memories. These are the sounds I’m always looking for. I’m absolutely aware they’re impossible to create, and even if I could, they’d be so deeply subjective that their understanding would be limited to myself only.
In the end sounds are a utopia that can be heard.
Many artists have related that certain sounds trigger compositional ideas in them or are even a compositional element in their own right. Provided this is the case for you – what, exactly, is about certain sounds that triggers such ideas in you?
I really don’t know. Sometimes certain sounds trigger my imagination, other times I record them and transform their rawness into something usable or viceversa.
For example, last year I recorded the sound of a gate screeching while it was closing, behind the gate there was a couple kissing. That association triggered me to use to gate waveforms and transform it in a pad.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
It depends what you mean with “space”. Physical space is 100% linked to my mind status. There are sounds that simply inspire me, they immediately trigger ideas or emotions, sometimes negative too. If we are talking about compositional space things are really different as space is directly related to the sound and density of notes you’re using in a piece.
I mostly find space more interesting than sounds. Lee Perry used to say that when you were listening to his tracks you could hear the space between the recording tracks. I agree with this. I hate crowded and over arranged pieces, something that is a real classic in italy. Layers and layers of crap to say nothing.
Humans are often characterised as "visual beings". In your opinion, what role does our sense of hearing play in our understanding of the world? How do sounds affect you, compared to other senses like sight or smell?
Hearing affects me big time, especially since I suffer from tinnitus. Certain sounds are really disturbing while other are my daily environment thus I easily navigate them. I became terribly careful when it come to sound as my ear ringings grow enormously in certain circumstances.
I have no understanding of the world, I tend to observe it. I steer clear of trying to understand things, I experience them through sound and when possible taste.
The idea of acoustic ecology has drawn a lot of attention to the question of how much we are affected by the sound surrounding us. What's your take on this and on acoustic ecology as a movement in general?
It’s surely an interesting idea to finally approach sound as trigger point in our environmental relationships as well as a potentially polluting component of our daily life.
The amount of it we can absorb is really subjective. I live in London, my area is really quiet, but walk a mere 10 minutes and you’ll be in the middle of a mess.
I can be there for a while but the overwhelming noise that surround me in certain places can get too much.
We can listen to a pop song or open our window and simply take in the noises of the environment. Without going into the semantics of 'music vs field recordings', in which way are these experiences different and / or connected, do you feel?
Acoustic pollution is so strong now that everything is connected. There's no escape, no way out. Even wearing noise cancelling headphones has no way out, there’s always a low rumble there - the creepy sound of urban archaeology, which in a way I actually love.
Unless you live outside in the wild opening a window or listening to a pop song is pretty much the same. In nature things go back to their meaning. They shape the environment as the environment shapes perception. It’s like circular breathing.
From the concept of Nada Brahma to "In the Beginning was the Word", many spiritual traditions have regarded sound as the basis of the world. Regardless of whether you're taking a scientific or spiritual angle, what is your own take on the idea of a harmony of the spheres and sound as the foundational element of existence?
Everything comes from sound. Think about it as something so powerful that doesn't need to be seen or touched, but at the very same time you actually can touch or see it!
It has a healing power as well as the destructive energy to wipe out a building in a mere second. Try to blast a low sub frequency at 150 dB in a flat and see what happens. Or use a 15kHz super loudsound to see how ears are bleeding.
I’m agnostic, I can’t believe in anything that isn’t scientifically demonstrable (even if I have my occult/spiritual dose of weirdness …). But Sound is possibly the nearest thing to a God I can imagine.