Name: An On Bast / Anna Suda
Occupation: Sound Artist, Producer
Current Release: Coherent Excitations LP on Modularfield
Recommendations: First, a book by Ekhart Tolle - “The Power of Now”, second “Freedom From The Known” by Jiddu Krishnamurti.
If this interview inspired you to find out more about An On Bast aka Anna Suda, she has a bandcamp profile and a facebook page.
When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
As far as I remember I had a natural interest to play the instruments that came into my hands. I played the piano that was in our home since I could reach the keys, for long hours everyday. It definitely shaped my sensitivity about sounds. Because of that, it is also natural for me to express myself through the sounds I create.
Communication through sounds especially now seems to be very interesting scientifically when you think of it as vibrations and frequencies in space, constituting energies and objects. On the other hand this is something I deal with while composing, mixing level every day in my studio. Sound perception and frequencies fascinate me.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
In my case it is not my way. Nobody needs to go through a phase of “emulating others”, I personally don't understand why it pops up. Maybe this assumption is repeated too often publicly so people believe they should go there. Why would anyone like to sound like somebody else if that is something that has already been done? Just follow what you feel, make music looking at nobody and just do it with love and honesty.
Learning, on the other hand is always good but only of you filtrate it through your own voice. Then, when your voice is expressed (through music or whatever other art or simple action) you observe how it resonates with others, with the audience, and then if / what emotions it brings up, does it cause or move anything. In my opinion there is no other way than to constantly learn yourself as a person, learn your own techniques, ways of doing something, so the music you make is completely yours from the heart and says everything about you.
What were your main compositional- and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
I never perceived making music as having any challenges. It evolves naturally. The only pit-stops that I have are when I realise that I would need some specific instrument or device to express something, which I don't already have and that would serve well the new idea that I came up with. So I get it. This way, I improve my ways again and again.
I see it rather as something beautiful to be on the creative path all the time. Actually, it's the only path in life without struggles. I have great enthusiasm working out the best way, finding new methods, experimenting a lot – these are fantastic moments that are essential in the process and beautiful experiences in every way.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
My first studio was based on Ableton Live 2.5 and a Clavia Nord Modular G2, a pair of krk v8 speakers, an old Roland 8bit sampler, a Zoom drum machine, Akai MPC 2500, Akai MPC 500 and almost too much use of Korg Kaoss Pad 2 (which I actually miss). It it true that it evolved a lot over the last thirteen years. I never wanted to be a collector of instruments, I feel rather sad when I realise I haven't used something for a few months. Then I put it on sale as it will hopefully find a new home with someone to share the joy.
I am getting mostly new things for my studio because I need them to fulfil my vision – then I look into the market if there is a machine that would do this or that. Sometimes I feel I would change something and follow my intuition. Today the centre of my studio is a Midas Venice F24 mixer. I love it because of its sound quality and that I can work multitracking. I use a modular synthesizer, analog and digital, old and new polyphonic synthesizers, Octatrack, sampler, looper, plenty of effects. Currently I swapped an Analog Rytm for a Roland TR8S.
Software: I work in Ableton and Logic.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Technology just makes my vision happen. It is just a tool for what I have in mind. My tools have been changing but my creativity has always been the same from the beginning.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
My relation with my gear is very emotional but also very practical. It is like extending my mind, my hands. I use a mixture of instruments from the analog and digital world. I have some new stuff but also some old classics, some of my favourites are the Yamaha TG33 or Novation Peak. I feel great joy to create in a modular environment. I like to have everything connected, everything at hand, so I can play everything at once, improvise.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Collaborations are very special to me. Generally they put me into unknown territory and the lovely thing about it is, that then everything is possible. You cross your comfort zone, look for undiscovered solutions to communicate best with the other part. Our language is music, so there is usually no need to talk about it, just to play together right away. File sharing happens sometimes later in the final stages of album producing.
I'm happy to have found myself in a few magic music connections over the last years. I would like to mention Maciej Fortuna – jazz trumpeter with whom we made three albums together (one of them is “Electroacoustic Transcription of Film Music by Krzysztof Penderecki“) and performed in many beautiful places all around the world. Recently I have lots of joy playing together with Maciej Pruchniewicz – guitar player – our first duo album with ambient / experimental music is coming up in the Spring of 2020. I work with artists from the field of electronic music, too, as well as vocalists. I collaborate with artists from other domains like modern dance choreographers, film producers, making music and sound design for their projects or playing as an alectronic musician with big hybrid orchestras such as the Polish Independance Concert.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Yes, blending is a very good word for that. I feel the constant need to make music and that is why I do it. It is a very strong feeling so I just accept it and follow it. It basically leads my life which means it is very important for me and I spend a lot of time doing it. I make music everyday (unless I play a concert or travel). After breakfast, I usually spend the whole day in my studio.
Other than that, I like to do rock climbing, yoga, play tennis, ride on the snowboard or do other hobbies of mine which balance me well. I have days when I simply don't feel like it, then I just don't touch the music. I work a lot, with different music projects usually at the same time, it is very intense and I love it.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece or album that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
The ideas always come from the inside. Without any rule I can start with anything, no matter if it's an emotion or thought-based. I am happy that my internal source of creativity flows naturally.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
When you describe it you're no longer within it, right? I have no idea, I never read any description of that state. What supports it is very individual for sure. I don't know what it's like for others. For me I feel I am always there.
If I may I would recommend a book by Ekhart Tolle - “The Power of Now”. I am grateful that I came across it some years ago. Although it didn't change my creative state – just explained it to me more, let me understand myself more. That is why I recommend reading it.
How is playing live and writing music in the studio connected? What do you achieve and draw from each experience personally? How do you see the relationship between improvisation and composition in this regard?
I love both. Playing live is a cosmic feeling of energy exchange with the audience. Real magic happens through sounds. Studio work feeds my introvert part better, I'm finding myself good with me only. I improvise a lot and record in my studio as well as while playing live. Making music I let the process be intuitive and ideally thoughtless. I am catching myself in a moment. Just a certain moment that stays in a track and gets recorded. Usually later comes the obvious intellectual part of the composition and the form that is necessary for decisions from a technical point of view.
How do you see the relationship between the 'sound' aspects of music and the 'composition' aspects? How do you work with sound and timbre to meet certain production ideas and in which way can certain sounds already take on compositional qualities?
I don't separate timbre from composition too much in the creation process, as if one were coming out from another and vice versa. It is best if everything flows naturally so I don't need to think it through too much. I know I have my tastes, I know what has worked in the past, but the trick is to do things as if you're doing them the first time. To feel the shiver of the unknown, to be led by sound or / and composition, not to go where you've already been. And to enjoy every step, both sound shaping and writing, too. It requires the technical knowledge in your background to feel comfortable. But as I said before, filtering it through your own voice can take you exactly where you planned and totally beyond.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
It is a great question. I don't know. It is good to remember that our senses are limited to certain ranges and that there are frequencies happening even if we cannot hear them with our ears. Being conscious of that awards a different perspective to everything. As an example, just listen to the certain frequency or binaural beats and see what it does to you.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I would say I operate on vibes and frequencies. I know exactly what I put into the track emotionally and intellectually, but because I don't do it with words I cannot tell it directly or make someone feel what I want. There are people who resonate with my music (with me) and only they know what they feel and think about it. That is the beauty of music communication. Music is a language of its own and I am very far from applying rules to it which are typical for words.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
The idea of music is mathematical and maths as well as logic run our life. I feel there is a lot to do still within a zero-one based world. I also believe we can put emotions into music. So in that sense, even if we're using a known form, we can still put unknown and new content in it.