Funding Application Support Material

As Love Does (audiovisual demo)

Password: AsLoveDoes2017

This video was created by Vanessa Godden using footage filmed during a recent resideny in Japan. The sound is extracted from some demo material for As Love Does. These were compiled for this application to provide an example of what one of the short films released to promote the album might be like. Vanessa has proposed a series of short works that will blend both visual and sound elements to construct an experientially diverse response to my conceptual prompt.

Examples of Previous Works by Soddell:

Glue and Return (2016)

Glue and Return is a recent solo work that was composed for performance at the Avantwhatever Festival at RRR studios, and then recorded and mixed for feature on FBi Radio's program for experimental sound arts, Ears have Ears: Unexplored Territories in Sound. This piece reflects my recent interest in using sound to explore ideas related to women's experience of mental illness, trauma and abuse.

The first excerpt is a section influenced by a portion of text from the semiautobiographical novel, Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen, which describes her period of institutionalisation for borderline personality disorder. The sound presented here reflects on her experience of "thickened perception".
The second excerpt draws upon a poem written and spoken by Vanessa Godden about her experience of rape:

I woke up broken, brown.
You woke up smug with your scales, beige.
All I could hear, feel, smell, taste and see, crimson.
Is this what it means to be a woman?

The crescendo of sound that follows aims to extricate the energy of rage, pain, grief and lament for the history of abuse against women, and the shared yet isolating impact of this violence. Within a performance setting, the audience is placed in darkness and a subwoofer provides a heavy, suffocating presence of bass. Some audience members reported it as quite terrifying.

While this track uses text within the composition, in creating As Love Does I aim to explore more abstract, subtle and varied ways to deal with similar subject matter through abstract sound alone.

Media coverage of previous CD releases:

Review from Touching Extremes by Massimo Ricci

Achieving an aim by walking across the extremes of auditory and psychological awareness. Is this possible without losing at least a modicum of quality? Judging from the intelligence emanated by Host – a concise and seriously impacting work by cellist Anthea Caddy and electroacoustic composer Thembi Soddell – the answer is emphatically affirmative.

In the lengthy and cinematically outstanding “Dissembling”, the audio landscape is shaped by natural open vistas and stomach-gripping closures upon which the cello repeatedly explodes in clusters of crackling snaps, ferocious rumbles, disintegrated upper partials and rattling arco. The so-called “quieter” parts maintain a firm clutch on the listener’s sense of anticipation, spreading a tone of overwhelming imminence. No, make that “impending risk”. The grand crescendo in the last three minutes must be heard to be believed; ultimately we’re left alone with indecipherable out-of-town echoes, nocturnal crickets and impermanent aircrafts in a gorgeous finale.

“A Shut In Place” introduces an intense growling drone by Caddy, immediately enhanced and expanded by Soddell’s enlightened processing. The accumulation soon turns into a veritable hallucination, whistling-and-wheezing frequencies slapping our face like a tempest of icy sand, then we’re led towards a gradual decreasing of the sonic mass until silence falls. What’s remarkable is the parallelism between the imposing beauty of the acoustic frontal and the effective depth of the music, from which years of systematic study and absolute committedness transpire.

“Intimate Geometry” ends the album on the same level of wallop and superiority over products whose “fineness” is limited to their surface. An abysmal background made of distant tremors, sinister roars and an intriguing human/insect mix is broken by fulminant crepitations and thuds, after which another of the truly exciting studies in mounting loudness conceived by the duo hits hard, even when interrupted by fleeting silent fragments. The ending leaves us again in perplexed suspension, trying to catch a glimpse of a macrocosm that can’t be portrayed by mere words.

Unfamiliar, unforeseen, uncompromising. A dramatic message by two brilliant owners of discriminating ears and sharp brains.

THEMBI SODDELL - INSTANCE (cajid media, 2005)
Review published in Diffusion, the Sonic Arts Network Newsletter, written by Michael Day

Melbourne-based sound artist Thembi Soddell’s second solo release, Instance, released on Cajid Media, is a forty-one minute work split into seven sections. Formed from field recordings and generated sound, it is described as an interpretation of the artist’s dreams.

It begins in near-silence, and develops into a quiet, but aggressively resonant tone before unexpectedly exploding into loud, intense crackles of dust and noise, and then, before you can really identify what you are listening to, it suddenly returns to distant, low level white noise, gently building into a dissociated texture of distant activity. Half-identified voices penetrate the dark like unrecognisable shadows, and as you strain to locate their source or timbre, brutal industrial sound startles you back into a more detached attention, forcing you into isolation from the humanity of the voices in the distance. Short bursts of layered noise, like hailstones or soil raining on a coffin lid break the growing tension, replaced by jet engines, a rising and maintaining of energy, cut into by drops in sound, like flashes of pure darkness penetrating a terrifying twilight. Twitches of black noise maintain this indefinite sense of shock and awe, of constant repositioning and disorientation, suggesting an uncertainty of perception, as if all this terror is being created inside your own mind.

The thematic here is the interpretation of dreams, articulated through the approach and retreat of threat. Soddell ably maintains a sense of fear and powerlessness by keeping the listener in a constantly shifting position in relation to the developing sounds. Sometimes you are jolted out of your chair by the sudden arrival of a terrifying presence, sometimes its slow approach builds a sustained tension that is only released by its unexpected disappearance. These audio apparitions are always ominous, alienating and fearful.

Soddell’s work with dynamics is extremely accomplished, alternately forcing close attention and then rewarding it with shocking explosions of activity that bring any absent-minded trains of thought right back into a brutal present. This strategy is analogous to the remembering of a dream, the recombining of dreamed events into a comprehensible sequence. The work suggests all the uncertainty of a nightmare recounted, with all its gaps and discontinuities of narrative. The virtue of this for the listener is that it will keep you on edge throughout.

Instance is the soundtrack to a descent into somewhere dark and terrifying, which maintains an atmosphere thick with the threat of unexpected violence. If you follow the instructions on the sleeve, and listen to it LOUD, it might just make you want to leave the lights on at bedtime.

A full archive of reviews can be found on my tumblr page, which includes all reviews referenced throughout the proposal.