5 Questions to Florent Ghys about Bonjour

We’ve already talked about Florent Ghys and his music on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN. The French-born composer and double bass wizard is about to release a first (eponymous) album with his ensemble: Bonjour. Yes, it means “hello” in French. So say hello to Florent Ghys. Don’t be shy…

What is Bonjour and how was it born?

Bonjour is a low string quartet with percussion that I founded with Eleonore Oppenheim (double bass), James Moore (guitar), Ashley Bathgate (cello) and Owen Weaver (percussion) in 2012.

Quickly after I moved to New York City in the Fall of 2011, I felt the need to create a band to play my music. There, I was fortunate to be surrounded by amazing musicians and friends that I met through Bang on a Can and I immediately started writing sketches as soon as they said “yes.”

We made our official debut concert at NYCOs Flea Theater in the spring of 2012 for Kathleen Supove’s concert series “Music with a view”, and Owen joined us later that year.

Bonjour’s sound world is very close to yours, as captured on your solo albums. What does Bonjour achieve that you couldn’t achieve on your own?

My solo work explores the interactions between a live instrument and a computer through audio live processing, video sampling, and real-time looping. It also uses TV samples, pre-recorded parts, and click track, and is sometimes very dense with extreme accumulations of simultaneous double bass lines.

At the opposite, Bonjour is a study on how my music sounds like when it is played with real humans beings and without technology. We wanted to go back to the essence of musical performances as the simple reunion of acoustic instruments all together resonating in one room. We also wanted to embrace all the beauty and imperfections of human performances such as tempi fluctuations, movable intonation, and with a focus on interpretation. In that regard, we decided to record our first self-titled album “live”: all in one room with no click track and very little post-production edits.

The tracklisting (Friday 3PM, Wednesday,Thursday Afternoon, etc.) is reminiscent of Indian raags, that come with suggested performance times (morning, night, etc.). Can you tell us more about this particular week?

I started studying North Indian classical music in the late 1990s. I remember being amazed by a book by French ethnomusicologist Alain Danielou which was an inventory of most of the North Indian scales. It presented a poem for each one, the appropriate time for it to be played, and all the inner rules about how to approach certain degrees with ascending and descending motions. The idea that a pitch set has its own mood, color, and specific time to be played is fascinating. I try to apply this In my daily music practice. For example, I tend to feel dorian as a morning mode, and lydian as an afternoon one.

The music for Bonjour is loosely inspired by this concept and has no scientific or North Indian-based relations with the titles. I just tried to picture how a specific moment of the week could sound like in a very subjective way. The opposite also happened where I had to choose what time of the week would that piece be.

Video is such an important part of your music. Is there/will there be a video element to Bonjour?

The idea of Bonjour is to avoid technology as much as we can so there probably won’t be video in a Bonjour concert anytime soon. Maybe as a post-production or promo tool but definitely not as a performance element.

I actually wrote a piece with a weather forecast video sample that we never played. It just feels wrong and I’ll keep it for my solo set.

Bonjour: Friday 3PM (live at Tribeca New Music Festival)

What’s next for Bonjour?

We are still missing “Saturday night“, so I am writing it right now! We will play it at our release show at Joe’s Pub in NYC on September 4. I also want to write a “Monday around 1PM“; there is something very beautiful about that time. We’ll probably have enough music for a second album in the next year.

Then, we would like to hear how the band sounds like with other composers since Bonjour has a very special instrumentation that is challenging. Until now, I have been the only composer and we might try to open the band at some point.

Bonjour comes out on CD / Digital / Vinyl on August 26 on Cantaloupe. For more information, visit: