Jonáš Gruska is a proud amateur, honouring the French origin of the term (to love what you do). Curiosity and passion run through pretty much everything that Gruska engages in. In our conversation ranging from his site-specific sound installations to his hand-crafted microphones and audio tools, his recent interest in mycology, and his playful exploration of the electromagnetic spectrum, Jonáš used the word ‘fascination’ quite a lot, and for good reason. Curiosity and passion may indeed be the glue that holds together all the facets of his rather diverse artistic pursuits: the invisible thread that connects, say, electret microphone design to data sonification and oyster mushrooms. These interests and many more overlap in LOM, Gruska’s record label, audio equipment manufacturer, sound laboratory and public space in Bratislava, which emerged and gradually mutated from a punk DIY ethos, and is now a well established platform for sound experimentation and beyond.
We talk to Jonáš about resonating spaces, resonating surfaces, tramways, self-taught electronic circuitry, field recordings, fermentation, mushrooms, and unusual microphones.
Experimental composer and LOM label/space founder Jonáš Gruska finds it’s the weak spots that are the most resonant, from worn-out bridges to aged ventilation systems. The ceremonial album Žaburina (2018), less field-recording-bent than his celebrated debut Spevy (2017), digitally synthesises sounds influenced by experimental and eastern music traditions. Live, his self-made horn PA relays the raw, beautiful, complex output he identifies in broken things. Žaburina, a multichannel sound performance commissioned by Ina GRM, has its world première at Sonic Acts. Based on Jonáš Gruska’s eponymous 2018 album, the work in constant progress explores the imaginary folklore music of underwater nations. Although all sounds are synthesised, they are heavily inspired by hydrophone recordings and mouth-organ music from East Asia. Polymetric rhythms are used as compositional tools that expand through the multichannel system to their own specific instruments or overlap in complex non-Western scales. The centre of the work is a system of rotating PA horns, traditionally used for announcements in Slovakian villages – repurposed here as a very specific psychoacoustic-enhanced sound distribution system. Born in the former Czechoslovakia, experimental composer Jonáš Gruska studied at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague and Academy of Music in Kraków. His interest in chaotic and polymetric rhythms, unconventional tunings and the psychoacoustic properties of sound and field recording manifest in site-specific sound installations based on resonant properties of spaces and materials. He has given workshops on sonification, field recording, electromagnetic listening and programming for artists and created the Elektrosluch – electromagnetic listening device. In 2009, he started the label LOM, focussed on East/Central European experimental art and music, opening the LOM space for contemporary sound in Bratislava nine years later.