Ashia Bison Rouge: Pathway to experimentation
Ashia Bison Rouge is a composer, cellist, and singer who veers away from the beaten path musically. Combining her classical background with modern tech such as looping pedals and DAWs, she is constantly pushing the envelope to create electronic, pulsating, multi-layered orchestral pieces that draw the listener in with their unstifled creativity. With this in mind, we asked Ashia to create a track using our new Creative Soundpacks: Arbos, Babel, and Amber. A challenge she was more than willing to take on.
"I had this feeling of going into a big forest and having this sense of solace, and finding safety in solitude. This was something that was constantly running through my head."
Like many musicians before her, Ashia immersed herself in as much music as possible before finding her own path: “I grew up exposed to a lot of different styles from the music my parents listened to. I discovered a lot of soul and R&B, as well as rock and classical. There was a lot going on, and, of course, I was finding out about artists on my own. I think that exposure at a young age helped feed my interest in moving and growing in new directions.”
So what was it that drew Ashia to the cello? The sound itself was a major factor, but her family played a part too. “My love for the cello came to me, in part, because I loved the voice of the instrument, but also because my parents sent me to join an orchestra,” she says, “Initially, the instrument I loved the most when listening to recordings was the bassoon. But I fell more and more for the sound of the cello and its expressive qualities. At this point I’m not sure whether the cello shaped my character or if my character shaped the way I play.”
As her love for the cello blossomed, her intrigue towards experimentation began to gather steam as well. But first she had to let go of what she thought cello music should sound like to truly find her own style. “When I was 14 or 15 years old, I had been playing guitar and piano a little bit. I always sang when I played piano and wondered to myself, ‘Why don’t I do this when I’m playing the cello?’ This was the instrument I loved the most, it's where I felt most at home, so why am I treating it differently? That’s when I started to become more open about finding new ways to play it.”
Ashia didn’t dive into the world of electronic music right away. Throughout her early career she was dipping her toes in the water, building herself up to take the final plunge. “There have been different points in my life where I have explored electronic music,” she explains. “When I was in the composition studio at university, that’s where I got to play around with different stuff. In my Physics of Sound class, we had to analyse sounds. I decided to analyse the waveforms different cellos made––like the metallic cello my university had.”
It was after university that she decided to jump right in and tackle her experimental ideas head-on. With help from her friends and the people in her community, she was able to find her feet. “ODƎR, the last album I released, I did it on my own––apart from the mastering. It was a very self-made, self-taught process,” Ashia explains. “It was interesting because during that time I was posting on social media about how I wanted to record a new album, and how I was looking for a studio and musicians to record with. Then somebody wrote to me saying, ‘Hey Ashia, you know what sounds you want. Why not just do it on your own?’ That was a big realization for me.”
As a classically trained artist she initially found it strange to use VSTs and sample libraries––a bias that had possibly manifested from her classical training. “When I started using VSTs and sample libraries I was a bit dogmatic, I wanted the sounds just to come from my own instruments. But, of course, my curiosity haunted me again. I didn’t want to cut something out of my music just because of some self-imposed dogma.”
So when it came to making her track using Arbos, Babel, and Amber, how did she find it? “I loved the soundpacks.” she exclaims. “Babel has such creative use of the voices. There are these consonants that roll off beautifully, and these really great feathery sounds. It wasn’t just your typical oooo’s and aaaah’s. I really enjoyed using the marcatos as well.”
Her background in choir singing instantly drew her to Babel: “The clarity of the voices is amazing. As soon as I heard them, I immediately wanted to be singing along with them. It was irresistible to me.”
Amber is a pack she wants to explore further after hearing the sounds it can create. Its unconventional, down-tuned sounds intrigued her so much that she plans to write a piece using Amber later this year––with a possible release on the horizon.
"I found the combinations you can put together in Arbos really interesting. ‘Woods whispering’ in particular, is incredible."
Arbos also caught her ear: “All of the forest sounds from Arbos were really fun to work with too,” as she explains further. “I found the combinations you can put together in Arbos really interesting. ‘Woods whispering’ in particular, is incredible. Frederik—Orchestral Tools’ in-house sound designer—did an amazing job of creating a harmonic and ambient instrument that also has percussive elements. I could sit forever and just play sounds like that.”
After getting to grips with the sounds and which elements she liked, it was time to get creative. “I immediately thought of something a bit baroque sounding. During these really strange times of Corona, your sense of feeling or safety is different. As people, we didn’t really understand the nature of the virus in the beginning. But we were still able to go outside.” The peace she found in nature inspired Ashia further, “I had this feeling of going into a big forest and having this sense of solace, and finding safety in solitude. This was something that was constantly running through my head whilst I was searching through the instruments.”
Ashia is an artist who thrives on new musical experiences, new ways to tell her story. Music production has helped unlock the floodgates to her creativity. So what advice would she give to a musician looking to experiment further with the electronic side of music?
“If you’re a classical musician who wants to move into electronic music, just go for it!” she exclaims. “Reach out to the people around you. There are so many more people doing the same thing. They reach out to me all the time asking questions. Now, I feel there’s more of a willingness to share. There’s a lot of openness within the musical community, especially online. It’s almost like an open source mentality. You don’t need to go out and buy all the gear at once, just get what you can afford and learn it inside out, step by step.”
Photo by Saskia Uppenkamp
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