Requiem For Survivors

What are the sonic manifestations of trauma? In this podcast the artist and musician Thefuries explores how the experiences of sexual violence can manifest in sound and in the act of listening. We hear their journey through the making of a series of intensely personal pieces for Counterflows At Home, including the making of several bells and exploring how the idea of the bell resonates as both alarm or announcement. Thefuries culminates in five pieces of music which cycle through some of the emotional states associated with the experience of trauma.  These are woven through the podcast, interspersed with their insights on how the process has been.

The podcast was produced by: Alannah Chance


Transcript of Podcast

So who am I and what do I do?

[MUSIC: Letitia Pleiades – What about Hibiscus (clip)]

My name for this work is Thefuries

[MUSIC: Letitia Pleiades – What about Hibiscus (clip)]

I’ve been an artist for about 19 years and always worked in music and do quite a bit of dance and performance and a bit of object making

I don’t know why I do music. That’s why do I do music?  it’s a little bit that cliche story of like being about seven, trying to put my lips on a flu and being told I don’t have the right lips. And then it taking until I was 25 and living in a household of musical people. That was the first time I really got to touch instruments and I remember they found a drum kit at the skip and had set it up in the living room and were like, just, just play it, just give it a go and were really encouraging and I was like, Oh my God. I can really remember how excruciating it was to sit down in front of this thing. But I just gave it a few whacks and I was like completely exhilarated and not long after that I left and moved to Glasgow to come to the art school here and the communities around the art and music scene in Glasgow are quite special to me because there’s a lot of collaboration. There’s a lot of sharing. There’s a lot of encouragement

And two friends were pestering me to do a band with them and they are both musicians but they promised to play instruments they couldn’t play, so all three of us.. Like because I couldn’t play anything!

[MUSIC: TOTH – Spectral Domain (clip)]

Over the years I’ve made a lot of music that’s difficult to listen to, like I screamed for 2 years in a band. I

[MUSIC: Gropetown – Harlequin Babies (clip)]

Screaming is one part of me, absolutely. By wanting to do a project that was deep and broad and alludes to like the many, many feelings and, and loops that that exist in, in this experience. I guess I’ve started to realize that, that I want to make music that reaches more people. Talking about this. I think it, it feels important to me.

[Sound of bells]

So the piece that I’m making, the kind for Counterflows, I’m calling it a kind of a Requiem for survivors. a way of speaking about the experience of, of surviving sexual assault.

I have a history of experiencing sexual violence. My experience is of being attacked after a night out and so I’ve always found walking the streets at night terrifying. And it’s always been a gauntlet I guess. And that time I got home but I think there was definitely a long while there where I thought I was going to die.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Survival (clip)]

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Anxiety (clip)]

That changes the way that you then experience other trips out and getting home. And so I just wanted to explore this for myself, but also for other people because it’s a huge part of night culture and a huge part of my adult life experience.

And like the Glasgow that I came to in 2008, the club scene was dominated by male heterosexual desire.

A huge part of my motivation to become a DJ was that I wanted to spend time in clubs and DJing, being like visibly in the DJ booth, being on the poster of things, gave me the freedom to be in the spaces. That space was very male dominated and I didn’t feel entirely comfortable to explore or express myself.

[MUSIC: Letitia Pleiades – Dancehall One  (clip)]

I love clubs. I love the speakers. And I do love being in spaces that don’t have windows or that are like, away from the world, to work out whatever it is that’s going on with you, in a physical way.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Survival (clip):]

They can see my covered in blood, mascara and dirt, rain drenched and filthy. I dry slowly waiting for forensics. They see a shell, a home without a host. They offer me the first ginger snap from a new packet and something did die. And I am who I was before. Snap. I can’t eat that. Severed. I am changed and I can get out.  When the body is a trap I connect to the ocean salts inside and escape. I pool, I evaporate, I mist. I surround the purp, everytime they cannot continue. I blind them and fill the air with a putrid smell to make them gag. I am snowmelt, I run ferociously to the sea, encouraging my liquid self, finding movement in the ice, coaxing the stillness out of me. Expanding against my desire to be numb

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Softness (clip)]

I had the idea that I wanted to work with this content, and I felt like I’d been working with it anyway. But then the opportunity of the kind of the Counterflows, Scottish sculpture workshop residency came up and I guess I’d been thinking about alarm and rape alarms and the sounds related very obviously to this experience. And I was thinking about Bells

[Sound of the bells]

And the kind of town crier type announcing, but also the alarm, the warning of a bell. And it just, it fitted

And because SSW has a Foundry and a ceramic space, I was like ok bells, in some way.

[Sound of the bells]

So I made the Bell’s fairly intuitively. It was my intention to make them for some sort of ritual use. They’re funny because they’re made of bell bronze so they’re really, really resonant and they’re a slightly like pinky lilac colour compared to a normal bronze. They’re all different sizes, but they’re very tactile. They’re like very obviously handmade. But they’re also incredibly heavy and I realized after I’d made them that they’re really weapons. They’re really, really, really like weapons.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Softness (clip)]

Because I’m not a bell maker they’re not tuned. My intention wasn’t to shape and create this perfect note. So few of them have this real wobble to them. They really like wah–wah in the air.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Softness (clip)]

And then I also made these ceramic bells, those have all come out, very beautiful and many different notes. And I was really, um, pleased to have those as well because they feel, fragile. They feel very satisfyingly breakable.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Softness (clip)]

I want it to make something that attempts to both acknowledge the pain and some of the Sonic stress in a way. But also something that can provide ease maybe. And I was thinking a lot about listening and how maybe survivors listen in a more similar way to animals or to sort of predator–prey dynamics.

The building that I live in doesn’t actually really have any windows. It has a central window. And part of this work relates to my experiences of healing, of hearing. And I think it’s in a way magnified by living in a space that doesn’t have windows, but also doesn’t have walls and the thick like a house that insulates you from the sound of the outside.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Anxiety (clip)]

I listen very acutely. And I hear small sounds. And I can sort of pinpoint them and I think it also relates to improvising and training myself in that way to listen to silence

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Anxiety (clip)]

But it’s also how loud silence can be when you are walking in a street that seems empty but may not be

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Anxiety (clip)]

There’s a very ancient forest really near to SSW and I would go to this forest during twilight. I think  Twilight for me is one of those times where my eyes slip and I start to have visions and so twilight has become this very special time. Living in nature for the last two and a half years, I’ve, I’ve tried to make a real friend of Twilight and it’s when I see the most amazing things, because animals also use the night as their cover.

[MUSIC: Letitia Pleiades – Hunted  (clip)]

CLIP: Recording of artist deer spotting in the field

I find nature grounding in some way, but I also find it to be a witness. And that for me can be a little bit challenging. Feeling like there’s something watching me is a feeling that’s really familiar.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Lonning]

The residency coincided with the anniversary of me being attacked. So then I found myself in a completely unfamiliar village, in the middle of rural Aberdeenshire. The anniversary is in the winter, so it’s always dark, wet. Art buildings as well can tend to be a little bit cavernous and creepy. You’re often in these buildings on your own working late, you don’t know who else is still there and is these kind of like, I was working like 14 hour days to finish these bells because I mean, I’d gone into it pretty naively and had really underestimated the bronze making process and had ambitiously decided to make, I think, seven bells? And that’s a lot of bells actually, as it turns out! So I was doing like 14 hour days in the Foundry, on my own at night to get these bells finished. And it just, it just had to be done and whatever sort of demons were meeting me, I was meeting them as well, and I was continuing to do my work and that felt really good.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Rage (clip)]

One thing with all that I’m hoping to do with the music is to take sonic elements that on their own, or in the everyday Sonic fabric, can be alarming to me, and potentially to other people, and restructure them so that they can be heard with ease or even joy. Or even potentially dance to, if I restructure them in the right way, if I can create them in a shape that is physically joyful. That would be incredible. So that’s something that I’ve been trying to do with the work, is take these elements and try to get them into a structure that has ease.

With the naming, I’ve found that I use a lot of different names in my practices and some of that is an intentional sidestep from capitalists art ways and some of it is entirely motivated by anxiety and fear  around being identifiable. And I keep moving to be able to embody different parts of myself in ways that feel like publicly safe.

CLIP: Home recording of artist on anonymity

I found the name of Thefuries probably two and a half, three years ago. It’s something but it’s a multiple being, there are three of them at least and one of them translates as revenge in some way. I guess I’ve thought about this because I felt at this time very furious and I really felt that with this name I could just do some damage and be quite livid and live in a very energized… have my rage be very useful. But I think in terms of revenge, my revenge is to thrive. My revenge isn’t about anybody else, I suppose. And that feels important. I think that’s been on my mind with this work is to, Have people find ways to make names for themselves that are useful

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Rage (clip)]

The process has been…… good.

I think it’s been difficult this past month. I think having it be January and living in a space without windows has been a little bit of a push with this material. This content is sort of jangly for me, but in an old way where it’s so familiar. And I think I can, I think I can navigate it without being bothered and then it sort of, uh, yeah, it will surprise me in a way that’s just a bit boring. And I think that’s part of the thing about trauma or it’s part of my experience around trauma is that oftentimes it’s boring and having these responses is boring and having the energy to deal with yourself is boring.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Death (clip)]

there’s a real like sort of draw to just checking out but having to do the work means that I can’t really and I think that’s good. I think it’s been really positive in that way.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Rage (clip)]

There’s no question in me that this is what I should be doing. But ease isn’t easy, that’s so cheesy. (laughs) But having ease in your life is a really big job.

[MUSIC: Thefuries – Rage (clip)]