Sofielseelend – a farewell-composition based on concrete sound material recorded inside Vienna´s “Sofiensäle”
contributed by ORANGE 94.0, Vienna
“Sofielseelend” is based on a series of field recordings we made earlier this winter inside the ruins of Vienna´s “Sofiensäle” [“Sofie”]. This bourgeois assembly hall was originally built in the 1840s – used as a swimming pool, concert hall, ballroom, recording studio and theatre, as a venue for political congresses and non-political clubbings. “Sofie” burned down in 2001 under still unsolved circumstances. Carelessly neglected since then, her ruins now provide a derelict picture of her past, replacing her historically-charged atmosphere with an environment of silent decay.
Not completely silent, though. Located in Marxergasse, just a few steps away from Vienna´s centre, “Sofie” represents a sonic blankspace, isolated and fenced off – nevertheless, since her walls broke down, her roof collapsed, the borders between the inside and the outside are beginning to blur. “Sofie” involuntarily opened herself to the surrounding city life, street sounds infiltrate the building, swallowed and damped.
On the one hand our field recordings aimed at capturing “Sofie´s” acoustical presence. On the other hand they are also results of us consciously intervening in her surroundings. The recording process can therefore be described as a shifting between pure documentation – leaving sounds as they are – and active intrusion – treating and instrumentalizing found objects, spaces and conditions as musical material.
Much of the recorded sound material derived from an old grand piano we discovered left behind in the former ballroom – an arduously belted setting of rusted chords and broken keys, its body full of rubble and water. In its deserted and half-destroyed state the grand piano perfectly reflected the situation in which it was embedded, unveiling an ensemble of sounds and noises, more than slightly out of tune, where every single expression seemed to comment on its very own historical background, a sonic symbol of blooming decay.
After recording we rearranged and recomposed the field recordings on the computer. “Sofielseelend” was structured more like a film – with different scenes alternating, each of them presenting one sound-family as a protagonist. A couple of texts, spoken in Englisch and German, were supplemented – all oft them referring to “Sofie”, though each from a different perspective.
Text: Lale Rodgarkia-Dara
Narrator: Wolfgang Pratl
Sound recording/editing: Maria Fuchs, Andreas Trobollowitsch, Johannes Tröndle