love songs

There’s a lot of silence on “Love Songs”. Rather than batter you with noise hammers right from the get-go, Soddell chooses very gradual fade-ins, or sudden bursts seemingly coming from nowhere… this mirrors the ways in which pressure can slowly build up in a relationship between two people, or how deeply repressed feelings can suddenly explode given the right trigger. Or perhaps these forms are intended to represent the “insidiousness” of the abuse that Soddell wishes to meditate on. Either way, the results are striking and unexpected: the silence increases the perceived aggression or pathos of the noise, while the noise attenuates the blankness of the silence, filling it with its own void.

Nathan Thomas, Fluid Radio

Love Songs is a composition in five movements:

1. Object (im)Permanence
2. Erasure
3. Repetition Compulsion
4. Who is to Blame?
5. Epilogue

While composing this work, Thembi was thinking through sound as a means to explore the felt mental impact of insidious abuse in intimate relationships and its manifestation as symptoms of so-called mental illness. This process is described in the Love Songs audio paper published in Liquid Architecture’s online journal, Disclaimer.

This work was composed by Thembi Soddell using sounds sampled from Alice Hui-Sheng Chang (voice), Jim Denley (flute), Emah Fox (voice), Cat Hope (electric bass), Martin Kay (field recordings) and Thembi Soddell (objects). It also has an accompanying book of concrete poetry, released with the CD on ROOM40, which can be purchased here.

Love Songs can be heard on Self-Titled Magazine, which also includes video clips by media and performance artist Vanessa Godden (also embedded below) and track by track commentary by Soddell addressing aspects of trauma, psychoanalytic theory (and by extension mental health care), abuse and the silencing of women that informed the work.

A performance of Love Songs won the 2019 Green Room Award for Contemporary Sound Performance. Thembi’s sound installation Held Down, Expanding is also a companion piece to Love Songs and was a finalist in the 2019 APRA-AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence in Experimental Music.

Image description: Vimeo player of a video clip for “Object (im)Permanence”, the first movement on the album Love Songs by Thembi Soddell. The video is 5:06 minutes long and shows a closely cropped mouth of a brown-skinned person in their late-20s that is licking and biting a piece of black, semi-opaque see-through stocking material stretched across the person’s face. As the video progresses the stocking becomes more and more torn and the performers teeth, tongue and bottom half of their face becomes more visible. The video was created and performed by media and performance artist Vanessa Godden.
Image description: Vimeo player of a 3-minute video clip for “Repetition Compulsion”, the third movement on the album Love Songs’ by Thembi Soddell. The video shows a closely cropped mouth of a white skinned women in her late 30s with short blue hair that slowly opens and closes, revealing nails inside the mouth. With each subsequent opening of the mouth more and more nails appear. As the mouth fills, nails begin to fall from the mouth as it’s opened, and saliva also gathers. The mouth tremors the more full it gets and the action of opening and closing the mouth appears more difficult and dangerous. The video was created by media and performance artist Vanessa Godden and performed by Emah Fox.
Image description: vimeo player of a 4:38 video clip for “Erasure”, the second movement on the album Love Songs by Thembi Soddell. The video shows a closely cropped mouth of a brown-skinned person in their late 20s with a black crew neck top and brown whisps of hair. The mouth gradually releases thick, black goo and saliva from the mouth. This goo runs down the chin until the mouth is emptied, with black goo and saliva left hanging from the chin. The video was created and performed by Vanessa Godden.
Image description: Vimeo player for a 1:17 video clip for “Epilogue”, the fifth movement on the album Love Songs by Thembi Soddell. The video shows a closely cropped mouth of a brown-skinned person in their late 20s with whisps of blue hair behind their ears. There is a tangled clump of hair that appears stuck inside the mouth and the person’s hand is pulling it out slowly with some resistance. As it emerges from the mouth it is revealed to be a huge, thick, tangled and clumped together mass of hair and saliva. At the end of the video the clump releases and the mouth closes. The video was created and performed by Vanessa Godden.