ARTIST FEATURE: Ashley Ballat from ‘The Dream: Monash Sessions’

We’re celebrating the artists who perform on the new album, The Dream: Monash Sessions, featuring Dave Douglas and musicians from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

Ashley Ballat is a Melbourne-based emerging trumpet player and composer. Her passion lies in exploring collective improvisation that builds upon sound manipulation, layered textures and the sonic environment. Her compositions and ensemble approach is greatly influenced by the music of Bill Frisell, Arve Henriksen, Eric Honroe, Andrea Keller and Bon Iver. She has performed with a number of local and international musicians including pianist Vijay Iyer, bassist Linda May Han Oh, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and pianist Paul Grabowsky.

What instrument do you play and can you describe the room you recorded in?

I am a trumpet player and recorded all of my parts in my small bedroom which also functioned as an office/ yoga room/ and home studio during the stage 4 COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne. I live in a small share house near Monash University with two other flatmates.

What was the biggest challenge of remote recording and how did it differ from challenges to in person playing?

Recording with such a large group was difficult. It was great that the rhythm section recorded first, however I found it easier to record to the midi file as I could hear how my part interacted with the other horns. Once the parts were put together, people who recorded to the MIDI were a millisecond out of sync with the other parts. This was the first challenge. The other challenge was blending and intonation with the other horns, as we each recorded separately.

How will the musical interactions you’ve had via remote stay in your practice when the lockdown is eased, if at all?

I found that using a DAW (digital audio workstation) really inspired a new way of composition for me. I am not the best on piano and only know about 5 chords on the ukulele, so I struggle to come up with interesting harmony for my original music. By recording/ overdubbing/ looping multiple linear parts on the trumpet, I created some interesting textures and harmonies that I most likely wouldn’t have discovered on a harmonic instrument.

Where do you see yourself and your music fitting into the community of musicians?

I love playing music with nice people that are inspired by the world around them, and hope to continue doing this for as long as I live. I am so lucky to have found some awesome artists (both in music and other mediums) that I can share my journey with and hopefully meet many more in the future!

Where can people learn more about your work?

I have a few tracks I recorded online during the pandemic, which you can find here on YouTube here.

Otherwise I am on a few of the other Monash Session albums, and the recent Monash Art Ensemble album Here Now, Hear on Bandcamp.

The Dream: Monash Sessions is available exclusively on Bandcamp here. And you can join us as a subscriber to stream and download this album, along with more than 80 albums in our catalogue and much more.