In this edition of Working With Sound, Sumarlinah reflects on the process of creating transomatics, how an evolving relationship with self can inform work, and their hopes for the future of Australian podcasting.
What piece of audio has had the most profound effect on you – as a listener, as an audio maker or both?
The BBC Radio Dramatization of The Lord of the Rings from 1981 is one of my favourite audio creations of all time. The music, the actors, the narrator… just perfect. I think this will always be my prime evidence to anyone who questions whether audio can compete with film. It most definitely can, has for decades, and continues to do so.
Where else do you find influence or inspiration for your work?
I take lots of little field recordings on my voice memos app of sounds that I find inspiring. It is mainly the ways wind moves through leaves, and waves meeting the shore. I love the way these sounds can seem repetitive but are also never the same. I think this can teach us many things.
Where did the idea for transomatics first come from? How has it evolved over time?
For many years now I have been trying to find more effective ways to encourage people who feel alienated by their bodies to grow closer to their selves. Coming to transomatics has been a natural evolution over time, and grew out of much experimentation, conversation and personal experiences. First, I had to enter into conversation with my own gender non-conformity (a never-ending discussion between myself and I), and be far enough along this journey to be able to look back and see where I have drawn strength and assurance around my gender, my body, and my identity. Only in more recent years have I been able to draw a connection between movement practices and my relationship to gender, body and identity. Turning this knowledge into something I could share is another equally never-ending journey, and I am very curious to see where it takes me next.
Turning this knowledge into something I could share is another equally never-ending journey, and I am very curious to see where it takes me next.
What has been your favourite part of shifting transomatics into an audio experience?
Definitely being able to create something that people can encounter at home or wherever they feel safe. So often people don’t want to do this vulnerable self-knowing work around others, and I think creating an audio version of the practice made it much more accessible in that sense. I also hope that this first series can serve as a short introduction to body awareness and lead each person on a longer journey getting to know their bodies.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Knowing when this work would be ready to be released! I found it so much harder to get pre-release feedback and gauge what people’s reactions would be. More than ever, creating during Covid-19 lockdown just feels like pouring your heart into the void and hoping you hear some echoes come back to you.
What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about radio or podcasting?
Be aware of your surroundings. So many of my early interviews have terrible background noise. In particular, to be mindful of small things because they can still make big sounds.
If you could go out to dinner with any audio maker, who would it be – and what would you talk about?
I would love to hang out with Kid Fury and Crissle from The Read. As a Gemini, I love to gossip. I also love the vicarious therapy The Read offers, and the simultaneously no-nonsense and laid-back attitude of Kid Fury and Crissle. I’d love to just eat junk food and talk about Steven Universe with them.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I have been enjoying listening to The New Yorker Radio Hour, which features all sorts of conversations and deep dives. I am also spending a lot of time with The Subtlety of It with Nana Owusu; a beautiful creation that teaches thoughtfulness, introspection, and reflection.
What’s your favourite Australian podcast, and why?
I love 7AM from Schwartz Media. I listen every morning, and love hearing from the regulars, as well as the features with some lesser known or new voices. In particular, 7am did some excellent episodes with organisers of the Black Lives Matter rally in Narrm (so-called ‘melbourne’), and the Tanya Day inquest.
With such diversity on this continent, there are just so many stories to tell, so many perspectives to hear from, and so much art to appreciate.
What – if anything – do you think distinguishes Australian audio? What would you like to hear more of?
I think politically and culturally Australia has so much content to grapple with that makes us a pretty unique colonial collective. I am looking forward to finding and hearing more from First Nations voices (like Nakkiah Lui and Miranda Tapsell creating Pretty for an Aboriginal, and Word Up by Daniel Browning at ABC RN). With such diversity on this continent, there are just so many stories to tell, so many perspectives to hear from, and so much art to appreciate. I am also looking forward to this new series Falling in Love with your Country by Jonathon Jones coming out in 2021 talking about place in the south-east of this continent from various Aboriginal perspectives.
I am hoping to host in-person transomatics workshops in 2021 (you can sign up here), pandemic permitting. I will also release a second audio season eventually, when the timing is right. But for the immediate future, I am going to continue practicing patience and learning about my body in the comfort of home.