Sopor Aeternus

Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows

Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble Of Shadows (often referred to as the simplified, "Sopor Aeternus" , [literally, "Eternal Sleep, a term meaning, "The Sleep of Death] or even "Sopor) is a Darkwave musical project founded by and consisting solely of the German musician, Anna-Varney Cantodea. It was formed some time in 1989 .

AVC: Biography

Introduction, Namesake & Gender

Despite years of good (though not well-known) media attention (such as her interviews published in Orkus Magazine), not much is known about this shadowy entity...- Cantodea. She (Anna-Varney) tends not to talk about her own personal life; a life which seems to have been filled with great grief and depression. From what little is known, Anna-Varney could be described as being transgender (she has, in the past, referred to herself as "two-spirited", a "warrior of the neutral zone" ["neutral" in this case meaning: "between sexes"], or simply a "transsexual" [more specifically a pre-operative transwoman.Cantodea prefers to be known as a "she", instead of a "he", and states that she does not seek to surgically alter her body due to reasons of, as she refers to it, "spiritual conflict." In 1997 she took the name Anna-Varney Cantodea to reflect this (before that time she simply referred to herself as "Varney). Her decision to alter this pseudonym was based on several factors: "Anna" was a typically feminine name, the already established 'Varney' stemmed from the horror story, "Varney the Vampire, or The Feast Of Blood", and Cantodea had been a form of the Latin word for, "female singer" ... When asked about the nature of her name, specifically though, in one interview Anna interjected:

I am simply Anna-Varney ... also known as: "(S)he with the S in brackets", ha! Well, the old question: are you a woman or a man? To which the answer is: yes, of course!

Age

Though her official date of birth has never been released to the public, it is speculated by a small number of fans that Anna was born some time in the 1950s , due to a heading seen on the booklet cover of her recent 2007 release, Les Fleurs du Mal. Upon this can be seen the phrase,

"SOPOR: Sedating the heart since 1952."

Life & The Ensemble

She has said in several interviews that she spent nearly three decades in extreme states of depression, despair and loneliness. These emotions were cited as being brought on by being frequently beaten by her parents and peers in school, and by becoming somewhat suicidal at the age of twelve, along with many other experiences of severe depression throughout her life. One such instance could be the childhood trauma that Anna had undergone by having an out-of-body experience whilst under sedation due to a surgical operation she was receiving at the age of six. All of these events led up to and resulted in her discovery of the, "Ensemble Of Shadows": otherworldly presences and/or voices who stirred her musical senses and guided her to share the works in her mind with the public. She does not speak much on the subject of the Ensemble, though she does state that they (denoting that they are, in fact, individual, 'spirits') give her her musical inspiration in dreams. Hence, the phrase Sopor is closely tied in with Anna-Varney's creations, as the word itself refers to "sleep" in Latin.

Anna-Varney seems to be voluntarily isolated, as she has spoken of fear, disgust, or sadness when in the presence of most individuals, though she does state that she is less isolated now than she used to be. In any case, she does not perform live, "in front of humans." Anna-Varney does have a sense of humour however, such as admitting she loves Darth Vader and changing the Fruit of the Loom logo to, "Fruit of the Tomb," which incorporates her face into the design (as seen in her 2002 work, Nenia C'alladhan).

Spirituality

Cantodea could be said to be a very religious (or at least spiritual) person. While she has never admitted to following a specific, religious sect, she tends to give an expression of spirituality when both interviewed and listened to through her music. In such music, an important, supernatural power is often referred to; this entity is the Greco-Roman deity, Saturn (Also known as Cronus). This God was (and in probability, still is) one of the most important figures in Anna-Varneys creative works. This sort of "devotion" to Saturn is evident in many of her songs (most notably "...And Bringer of Sadness"), though it is not known whether or not Cronos is seen by Cantodea as a symbolic metaphor or an actual being that is worthy of worship. Yet his (along with Jupiter's) importance is stressed within the Symbol of Jusa, an icon (in probability) created by Anna-Varney that combines the astrological symbols of Jupiter and Saturn. This object is probably the most significant within the realm of Sopor, as it appeares as the official logo of Sopor Aeternus and Anna-Varney Cantodea, and is appropriately featured on every Sopor Aeternus release to date.

Much of the artwork presented in Varney's albums include astrological imagery; some have even predicted that she possibly has a spiritual connection to celestial objects, or that she may be a type of pagan...

Saturn and Jupiter are not the only divine concepts to whose expression Anna is restricted — other deities from the Greek and Roman pantheons are often mentioned in her work(s) (such examples include Morpheus, Uranus and Charon). Other divine-like figures are mentioned by Cantodea, yet she only refers to Greek and Roman Gods by name. She has spoken of several different beings whom some fans of Varney have thought to be (at least) allusions to divine characters. For instance: she has, in certain albums, spoken of figures like the "Sister of Self-Destruction", "The Old Man", or the "Lord of the Darkest Side". Some believe Anna to be a polytheist.

A strange and uncommon claim is that Anna-Varney is or once was involved with a Thelemite order (the album, La Chambre D'Echo - Where the dead Birds sing, for instance seems to point to such an involvement).

Anna-Varney also currently seems to be involved with the pagan and occult author Raven Digitalis, who appears to be one of the "managers" for the official Sopor Aeternus MySpace profile.

Musical Style

Anna-Varney's renaissance and baroque influenced music is emotional and often considered extremely melancholic, using a number of different of brass instruments, woodwinds (in particular, flutes), string quartets, violins, pipe organs, bells, and guitars. In some instances, synthesizers and drum machines or real percussion is used. Anna-Varney has clearly stated that she creates her music about herself, solely for herself. Various themes include death, suicide, unrequited love, karmatic pain, loneliness and sadness, astrological references, dreams, mythological figures, and sometimes the undead (the latter usually appearing in her earliest albums and in several rereleases). More recent themes include occultism and sexuality.

A very important recurring theme is Cantodea's apparent Transsexualism and the idea of becoming or being a woman, including removal of the typically male genitalia in favour of attaining the female variant (in later album artwork, Anna-Varney is usually shown nude with a vagina which has been edited in with photo-manipulation techniques). As well, much of Anna's earlier works deals with mysticism and spirituality (more specifically a sort of spiritual failure). There are also several musical themes that reappear in her works; the most notable example is the song, "Birth - Fiendish Figuration," which has appeared in at least four forms on separate releases. Other songs contain similar melodic lines or lyrics from an earlier release.

When asked about the specific genre of her music, Anna-Varney says that she does not follow a specific style of music and that she simply creates, "...-music for dead children [and otherwise wounded souls], that is all." Despite this statement, many fans consider Sopor a Darkwave project, and one in the most unique of forms.

Relations To Other Artists

Anna-Varney has had a small but varying relationship with a number of music artists since the birth of Sopor Aeternus. More than several of her songs were reworkings of other tracks from musicians of widely varying genres from around the globe:

Besides recreating music done by others, Varney's work has been appreciated to such an extent by her fans that, in 2008, German Techno act Dresscodisco released a remix of "Tanz Der Grausamkeit", one of Cantodea's more renowned songs, first released in the album "…Ich töte mich…" (1994).

Origin & Development

Blood of The Black Rose {"Undead Trilogy" era} (1989 - 1993)

Sopor Aeternus was born some time within 1989. It was created by Anna-Varney Cantodea, and an elusive individual known only as, "Holger". The two had met at that time, in a Goth club called, 'Negativ', which is located in Frankfurt, Germany. At that point in time, it is described in an interview with Anna, that she was experiencing a sort of sporadic outing with the "human world", and that Holger became a sort of link for Anna-Varney to use to regain her ability to have connections with society (she was quite isolated at the time)... For unknown reasons, Holger decided to join Anna in materialising a sort of 'dream' music given to her in dreams by "spiritual muses" - muses from whose inspiration her music comes/came forth: muses that Anna calls, The Ensemble of Shadows.

Anna and Holger worked together with what little money they had to purchase the needed accommodations for their music and created Blut der schwarzen Rose (meaning: Blood of the black Rose), or (a.k.a.) The Undead Trilogy, a triad of demo cassettes under the titles: Es reiten die Toten so schnell... (first and only released demo), Rufus (second demo), and Till Time and Times Are Done (third and last demo). Other than the 50 copies of Es reiten die Toten so schnell..., these were never released to the public. Shortly after their creation, Holger (for once again, unknown reasons) left Sopor.

Fiendish Figuration {"Ich töte mich..." era} (1994)

In 1994, after signing a contract with Apocalyptic Vision, Anna-Varney produced her first album, Ich tote mich…. Much mystery hangs around the creation of this album, as sources and interviews are scarce in knowledge as to where Anna was at this point in her life, or how she gathered the financial needs for such an endeavor.

"...By a route obscure and lonely..." {"Todeswunsch" era} (1995 - 1996)

In 1995, Anna worked on several musical projects. Possibly the most notable could be Todeswunsch - Sous le soleil de Saturne, an album which caused a divide amongst listeners due to it having a more "renaissance"-like sound than the previous album. 1995 would also be the year that Anna-Varney would release her first EP, Ehjeh Ascher Ehjeh, which contained rereleases from the songs in Todeswunsch. It would also be within this period of time that she formed the side project, White Onyx Elephants and recorded songs under that title. She recorded these songs for the Apocalyptic Vision-released compilation album, Jekura - Deep the Eternal Forest, which featured several other artists of similar genres.

May I Kiss Your Wound? {"The Inexperienced" & "Voyager" era} (1997)

Soon 1997 came, and Anna revealed two albums that she would later criticize in a somewhat self-dissatisfaction. The first of the two albums was The Inexperienced Spiral Traveller, which in 2000, Cantodea would refer to as her worst release yet. This is seen in a quote from an interview in the webzine, Utter Dark ^, when Anna is asked how she feels about her own musical progression:

Hmm... Well... Let's put it this way: "The Inexperienced Spiral Traveller," has been the worst album I have ever recorded... And after that... It slowly got better.
-Anna-Varney Cantodea (Circa 2000)

The second album, Voyager - The Jugglers of Jusa, was released as a companion and remix album for The Inexperienced Spiral Traveller, containing a few extra tracks of its own. Anna-Varney exposed her despise of, "Voyager," within its section of liner notes in the boxed set, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation. Within can be seen a quote from Anna herself:

"... - oh dear. What good thing could I possibly say about this most horrible piece of crap?!"

She later expressed her wishes to re-record the album at a future point.

No-one is there {"Dead Lovers' Sarabande" era} (1999)

"And Bringer of Sadness" {"Songs" & "Nenia" era} (2000-2002)

The Vampyre sucking at his own Vein {Neo-"Es reiten..." era} (2003}

Feed the birds {"La Chambre" & "Like a Corpse..." era} (2004-2005)

The Flowers of Evil {"Les Fleurs" & "Sanatorium Altrosa" era} (2007-2008)

SOPOR in Film

Sopor Aeternus is an oft considered "underground" project, with only what can be described as a "cult following". It most likely because of this small (though growing) amount of popularity that Anna-Varney's music has not been used by filmmakers to a significant extent.

Despite this, Sopor Aeternus has had a very small correlation with its music being featured in film:

Discography


Demo Cassettes

Also known as: Blut der schwarzen Rose (meaning: Blood of the black Rose), or The Undead Trilogy


Albums and Eps


Compilation Albums

Note: Two of the four songs performed by Anna-Varney Cantodea on Jekura - Deep the Eternal Forest, are recorded under the band title, "White Onyx Elephants", a side project of Sopor Aeternus & The Ensemble of Shadows.


Singles

  • In der Palästra (2007) - Released November 27, 2007 to Projekt Darkwave; released November 16, 2007 to Infrarot.de. Sopor's first single.

Note: Anna-Varney's merchandise is sold primarily online at/by, Infrarot.de (see External Links).


Videography/Filmography

Sopor Aeternus has had a small history of video recording. Anna-Varney tends to record somewhat blurred and transparent videos with purposely undetailed features; although there are exceptions such as the two videos of Deep the Eternal Forest (produced for the album of a similar name) and the video single of In der Palästra.

Music Videos

Year Title Appeared In/From...
1995, 2005 "Deep the Eternal Forest - 1" Watch Jekura - Deep the Eternal Forest, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
1995, 2005 "Deep the Eternal Forest - 2" Watch Jekura - Deep the Eternal Forest, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
1999, 2005 "The Dog Burial" Watch Dead Lovers' Sarabande (Face Two), Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
2000, 2005 "...And Bringer of Sadness" Watch Songs From the Inverted Womb, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
2005 "The Goat" Watch The Goat / The Bells Have Stopped Ringing, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
2005 "The Bells Have Stopped Ringing" Watch The Goat / The Bells Have Stopped Ringing, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
2005 "The Bells Have Stopped Ringing (Original Clip)" Watch The Goat / The Bells Have Stopped Ringing, Like a Corpse standing in Desperation
2007 "In der Palästra" Watch Les Fleurs du Mal (album), In der Palästra

Album Trailers

Year Title Appeared In/From...
1999 "Dead Lovers' Sarabande (Face One) - Trailer" Watch Dead Lovers' Sarabande (Face One)
2004 "La Chambre D'Echo - Where the dead Birds sing -Trailer" Watch La Chambre D'Echo - Where the dead Birds sing
2007 "Les Fleurs du Mal - Trailer" Watch Les Fleurs du Mal (album)
2008 "Sanatorium Altrosa - Trailer" Watch Sanatorium Altrosa

AVC: Gallery

External links

Official Website and Fansites

Other

References

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