Better Know Zwerm

New Music in New Places: Belgian-based Guitar Quartet Zwerm

Friday, March 16, 2012

Belgian-Dutch Guitar Quartet, Zwerm (Courtesty of the ensemble)

Since 2007 the Belgian-Dutch electric guitar quartet Zwerm has performed in the UK, Europe and the United States. In 2010, Zwerm (Dutch for "swarm") released their debut album, The World's Longest Melody, a collection of new-music from Larry Polansky. Zwerm frontman Toon Callier speaks about the group's formation, using effects peddles in classical music and what the group is planning next.

When did Zwerm get started, and how did it form as a quartet?

We started in 2007 after a project of Glenn Branca who played a few concerts in Belgium for which he was searching for 100 guitarists. The four of us took part in this project and afterwards we had the idea to start an electric guitar quartet.

In discussing Modes of Interference, one of your earlier projects you've said that the electric guitar began as a symbol for rock and revolution. How have you come to understand the electric guitar as a voice in contemporary music?

Sometimes we play in a very conventional way (for example in our rock project Popcorn, or on our album The World's Longest Melody). But in the end, yes, the guitar is just the instrument, the material (the interface) we use to serve the music. I started playing more and more contemporary music when I was around 20. I got a little bored with classical guitar repertoire and was searching for new things.

In what ways do you use electronics and effects in your music and in what ways, if any, do you absolutely not use them?

This really depends on project to project. In Popcorn we use them in a very conventional rock way. On The World's Longest Melody we didn't use effects at all. The music will tell us whether we need to use effects and electronics or not.

The four of you created a piece that uses an astonishing 70 pedal effects for only one inputted guitar. That got a lot of attention from guitarists to say the least. Will you speak a little about the dream behind Pedalfest? How did this project get created were you happy with the results?

During the years we all bought so many effect pedals (it almost turned into a competition) that we had the idea to make a performance just with the pedals and without guitars, or just one to have a starting signal. Yes, we really liked the result and we're going to develop this next year towards a music performance for children. 

What do the next three years look like for Zwerm? Are there any collaborations or new albums on the way?

They’re starting to look great! We have a new project (premiering in July at Darmstadt) with composer Stefan Prins and choreographer Shila Anaraki. In September we’re touring in the north of Mexico and hopefully LA. We are working on a new CD which will be released in September 2013 at New World Records. Lot's of exciting things.

Zwerm is Toon Callier, Johannes Westendorp, Bruno Nelissen, and Kobe Van Cauwenberghe.

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About Better Know An Ensemble

Q2 Music's Better Know an Ensemble introduces new-music in new places, by bringing you multimedia-rich portraits of new-music ensembles from across the globe. Through interviews with ensemble leaders, Better Know an Ensemble examines how groups have gotten started, what they’re working on and ongoing ambitions.

 

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