The World is Gone, This is the World
Layer 1: Death of a Woman
Electroacoustic Composition; it explores my expressionist and abstract sense of my Oma’s life story especially focusing on a sense of her leaping into the world. I intend it to be speculatively bringing together unwritten future and anachronistic, looming knowledge — my own grief is present in her youth. The extreme contrast in a literal sense is between a larger-than-life person and someone reduced by the medical system, particularly during COVID. My loss of her is also loss of the things I could have done or known differently.
Layer 2: Disappearance of a Village Girl
Edited recording of a conversation with my Oma where I asked her for some memories. We promised to record more in the future. The sense of person I am searching out here is one who was very open to life, up to challenges of survival, who felt the need to leave the village and as a result created this whole branch of our family that is not there anymore. I am interested in how deeply her words and richness of life contrast with the ‘reduced’ medicalized versions of people especially when coded as female, old, disabled, etc.
Layer 3: The World is Gone, This is the World
Electroacoustic soundscape composition. This piece is aware of the fact that the listener can navigate away from this assaulting sensory zone at any time, like a hospital visitor can shake off the smells, sounds, sights when they leave to go home — but that barrier will be there around its occupants even if the visitor forgets about it. This texture is not only physically distressing, but also represents the stripping away of life via stripping away of the familiar, the carried, the dendrites for interlacing with the world oriented by means of grooves and memory palaces. She had already left the village, then lost her home to a fire in old age and had to be relocated away from the ocean that she loved. Then she ended up here, where we were blocked from seeing her and her senses were both under and over stimulated by hospital circuits — blocked from the world.
Layer 4: Monologues in Locked Walls
Interview with Oma remixed/electroacoustic composition contemplating the period of time when I no longer had access to my Oma and she no longer had access to me or almost any one. The scope is including before I realized it was the case and after I understood it was too late.
The page consists of four parallel bands stacked on top of each other. The top band (Track 1) is a hazy grey orange. The second band (Track 2) is a maroon-toned image with a grey design that evokes waves or flames. The third band (Track 3) is a repeating greyscale image that is evocative of bars. The last band (Track 4) is an orange image with flecks of bright orange and yellow, evoking fire. When a cursor is available, it becomes the following: Track 1—a horizontal spiral with a vertical line through the centre, Track 2—a strawberry, Track 3— a compass rose, and Track 4—a candle flame.
Seagulls. Outdoor sounds give way to a lyrical drone-type sound. Light, airy, expansive. Slight distortion and white noise. Sounds of fire briefly interrupt the lyric drone. A rhythmic clicking sound appears momentarily, and the tone of the drone shifts to something more ominous. The burning sounds return and intertwine with the ominous drone. There is distorted screaming that gives way to the seagull and outdoor sounds the track began with.
Interview track. A story told in interview snippets. The story of how Helena’s Oma met her husband. Her Husband got a visa to come to Canada. There was originally a plan to return to Austria after a few years to build a house, and they had left behind their first child Frank for a year while they settled. They travelled across Canada and approached it like an adventure. However, her husband was killed in a mine collapse on his first day of work in Peace River. To keep the family afloat her Oma and the oldest child worked the strawberry fields on the farm, and her Oma took on other small jobs in the neighbourhood, as there was little compensation available to her as a widow from the government or company at the time.
Layer 2 Transcript
The sounds layer, loop and overlap. Distorted white noise. Sea gulls. Buzzing. Staticky Drones. Beeping. Whistles. Disorientation. Power tools. Distorted Buzzing.
Interview with Helena’s Oma is layered with the distortion and natural sounds from the other layers. The interview itself echoes and distorts. There are sounds of seagulls, buzzing, water. The voice isn’t easily decipherable. Words and sounds repeat and mingle.
Layer 4 Transcript
Helena Krobath is an artist, audio editor/sound designer, and educator drawing on sensory experience and recomposition to consider presences, environments and narratives. Helena's electroacoustic fictions and radio art have been recently presented by Arts Assembly, Publik Secrets, and NAISA (New Adventures in Sound Art), among others. Her audio essay on hearing political economic realities during COVID-19 was published in the Journal of Design and Culture’s special issue on Covid Materialities. Helena has led soundwalks with Vancouver Soundwalk Collective and Vancouver New Music since 2015 and developed workshops on audio storytelling, including for Nuxalk Radio in Bella Coola, Megaphone Magazine in Vancouver, and VIVO Media Arts Centre.
Soundscape Radio (Vancouver Co-op Radio CFRO 100.5 fm)