Inspiration & Process

This page documents some processes and inspirations behind the composition. This includes quotes and artworks that were discussed during workshops, screenshots from sessions, combined free writing done while listening to sounds in development, and bits and pieces from Soddell’s workshop journal.

Excerpt of Thembi's composition journal on grief

Image description: Cropped photograph of a lined journal page, with the top right corner folded down. The handwritten text reads: “What does grief sound like?” Below this reads “Silence”. Below this again, at a smaller size, reads: “A tiny crackling under the surface, in the distance but somehow right up under the skin. The skin in the ears, in the ear drums.” After “a tiny crackling”, “in the” was written first, then crossed out and replaced with “under”.

“Maybe a wound is a way of seeing into someone. Or maybe it is an opening into the person who inflicted the wound. I don’t need the wounds to disappear, but I want to give them the possibility to flower or tu’aachk, as we might say in Mojave. I can’t deny my wounds, those I’ve gathered across my own body and mind, as well as those I have inflicted on others’ bodies and minds. I can try to imagine a condition in which the wound will bloom, meaning a place beyond the wound. Yes, my brother’s knife and also light, also a thing that moves and moves and outruns my “knowing.” The energy is not disappeared but reorganized.”

– Natalie Diaz, A Conversation with Natalie Diaz. The Adroit Journal (2020)

Image description: Cropped photograph of a lined journal page. The handwritten text reads “What is its shape?” Below this reads “Oval radiating inwards then outwards with soft thin edges”. After “Oval”, the word “pulsing” was written first, then crossed out and replaced with “radiating” above it.

Screenshot from the workshop run by Vanessa Godden. For this workshop, participants and facilitators were asked to bring any kind of string, wire, or long connective, network like material. Together everyone experimented with tethering themselves to one another through connections between their bodies, computer and the string, or string-like, materials. This was a playful approach to thinking about the symbolism of materials and the sounds they made in relation to their bodies and lived experiences.

Image description: Screenshot of a workshop conducted through Zoom, with the chat open. There are five people in the workshop with their cameras on: Vanessa, Thembi, Melis, Kim and Hassaan. Everyone has wrapped themselves up to varying degrees with string or wire-like material, and tethered this material to their computers. Everyone is smiling. In the chat, Kim has asked about a Scott Walker album that Thembi mentioned. Vanessa has also sent links to two artworks previously discussed in the workshop.

The Coconut Effect, Lauren Marsden (2020)

This Land Is My Land, Bessma Khalaf (2006)

the end, Jen Caywood (2021)

I’ll Be Seeing You, Daniel Regan (2020)

Mind-mapping concepts

Image description: Photograph of an open A4 lined journal with a handwritten mind-map spanning chaotically across two pages, focused on the central, circled concept of “grief/loss”. Radiating out from this are various ideas, inscribed in circles. Clockwise from top left, they read: “transgenerational trauma”, “loss of control”, “anger”, “controlling people”, “take away your freedom & in essence parts of yourself”, “silence/silencing”, and “emotion in what can’t be spoken”. Other connected ideas emerge from these secondary circles and connect with each other in a web. Several phrases have been censored in black for privacy.

Bidirectional arrows connect “Transgenerational trauma” to “out of sync with time & space” and “survivor guilt”, which are in turn connect to “trauma by definition/nature of flash backs” and “(my grief is not mine)”. Written nearby is “All of my grief feeling like it’s not mine”, “Hassaan decontextualisation” and “suppression of emotion”. Also linked to “transgenerational trauma” is “pre-verbal trauma”, which connects in a chain to “inability to verbalise trauma”, “silence/silencing”, and “need for other languages”. Two lines radiate from the last phrase. One points to “mine in the body”, linking to “try to create it with sound”. The other points to “experiences are vast but language is limited”, linking to “how to speak about grief? I am scared to speak about it because of how much pain I see in my parents”.

Phrases that connect to each other from the basis of “silence/silencing” read “emotion in what can’t be spoken”, “wanting to disappear”, “emptiness” and “trying to be as quiet as possible so as not to be heard”. “Loss of control” connects to “concerns about crossing boundaries. Abusers not wanting you to cross their boundaries that maintain their control”, then “a sonification of a boundary. hearing him coming closer”, finally pointing to “controlling people”. Close to this reads “Anger? Is anyone in the group good at / [illegible] to express anger??” Below this reads “never feels a space where she can feel authentic. How does this apply to loss? does it? is their grief of the self?”

Screenshot from Alice’s vocal workshop when Melis’s greyhound Sunny joined in.

Image description: Screenshot of a workshop conducted through Zoom, involving recording vocals through microphones. There are five people in the workshop with their cameras on: Alice, Thembi, Amrita, Kim, and Melis. Melis holds a microphone, which her greyhound is vocalising into. There is general delight.

Ekla Chôlo Re

written and translated by Rabindranath Tagore

যদি তোর ডাক শুনে কেউ না আসে তবে একলা চলো রে।
একলা চলো একলা চলো একলা চলো একলা চলো রে॥

যদি কেউ কথা না কয়, ওরে ওরে ও অভাগা,
যদি সবাই থাকে মুখ ফিরায়ে সবাই করে ভয়—
তবে পরান খুলে
ও তুই মুখ ফুটে তোর মনের কথা একলা বলো রে॥

যদি সবাই ফিরে যায়, ওরে ওরে ও অভাগা,
যদি গহন পথে যাবার কালে কেউ ফিরে না চায়—
তবে পথের কাঁটা
ও তুই রক্তমাখা চরণতলে একলা দলো রে॥

যদি আলো না ধরে, ওরে ওরে ও অভাগা,
যদি ঝড়-বাদলে আঁধার রাতে দুয়ার দেয় ঘরে—
তবে বজ্রানলে
আপন বুকের পাঁজর জ্বালিয়ে নিয়ে একলা জ্বলো রে॥

If they answer not to thy call walk alone,
If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall,
O thou unlucky one,
open thy mind and speak out alone.

If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness,
O thou unlucky one,
trample the thorns under thy tread,
and along the blood-lined track travel alone.

If they do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm,
O thou unlucky one,
with the thunder flame of pain ignite thy own heart
and let it burn alone.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”

– Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth (1990)

“Sometimes I close my own eyes and I feel like I am there, too. Sometimes feeling feels more real than anything I have ever known.”

– Alok Vaid-Menon, Thank You For Instilling In Me the Audacity to Say Hello (2019)

“Score”/performance notes for first section of composition

Image description: Photograph of an open A4 lined journal with handwritten performance notes across two pages. The heading reads “PERFORMANCE”, with subheading “PT 1”. Underneath is a bulleted list, reading “grand prix cars – distant”, “Alice [scribble]”, “Kim curl vocal”, “Thunder”, and “Melis Kettle. Next to this list is a numbered map between triggers and MIDI channels, with various annotations: “while performing but check vol.”, “be sure to check sustain is on”, “have Melis kettle instrument open to see triggers”, “start w. MIDI channel 1”, and “switch to midi channel 4 once thunder is triggered”. On the lower half of the spread there is a graphic score, which takes the form of a slope that gradually rises in jagged sections, then sharply falls after the centre and peters out with thinning strokes. Each section is annotated:

Free Writing
Ocean waves – speeding boat – blustery wind – cool spray –
through a tunnel dark echoey down a deep well
moss dark earthy moist damp
thunder – the rolling of drums – horses on the horizon –
scratching at the walls of the enclosure
suppressed roar
what do you do when you have no place to speak
back of a truck pots and pans thrown
against each other against the walls
against me
rumbling inexorably moving
coming towards me
the inside of a washing machine
There’s a part of me breaking.
Soothing rhythmic sounds regular unchanging like a heartbeat
like a factory machine
I can almost rock back and forth to it
Are you breathing?
electric hum in the air
a snake moving from side to side
Am I breathing?
Volcanic lava spurting molten hot moving underneath
motorcycle storm impending warning system
This rolling thunder though, it makes me feel safe.
How does something so powerful, so big, make me feel so safe?
I like the storm.
I guess I love the fear.
I love not feeling powerful.
I love feeling small.
what connects us all
towers over all of us
the water cycle about to burst into new form
building towards the moment of explosion
Running running being chased trying to hide
hospital tubing
be hidden be safe being found
radioactive material
running again
ducking downhill
Here is the place I feel lost.
Could this be the direction?
There’s no silence so I can’t take a breath.
groves collapsing in on themselves
fingernails trailing down each bump of the spine
On a plane waiting waiting
highway car on a destination
The tiny fragments.
They bother me.
I bother me.
but the plateau of a changeless landscape
wheels on the road the patter of rain on the windshield
building towards a crescendo
building towards hurtling down the tarmac before
taking flight
crackle of the earth splitting the highway melting
rushing up into the sky
whipping over a swarm of insects
overtaking and burying the body
engines gather power
This bothers me.
I bother me.
You bother me.
This bothers me.
I hate this.
You bother me.
This bothers me.
We hate everything.
Slithering whispering questioning spying inside internal bouncing around inside my head
animal sleeping
Wind mouths generosity sadness singing Violence love hatred imagination singing laughing missing.
animal dreams
animal skin teeth
bared in sleep
lulled in soft fabrics still teeth are bared
Drums warning beating like a heart pounding
– fear scared anxiety –
impending threat
I want to stop writing but I don’t want to stop.
blades of a helicopter beating
baby’s heartbeat in the womb rapidtime
Are we together now?
I feel alone.
I don’t always want to feel alone.
Sprinkling rain crackling cellophane bursting bubbles…popping…
crackle of ice —
a solid mass forming fault lines and cracking open —

I exist. I am my life, I thought, approaching  

at last the bottom of the sea. It wasn’t the bottom. It wasn’t the sea.

– Paul Tran, excerpt from Bioluminescence