Concert: Sound Symposium, July 15, 2016

By Kent Smith

7-soundsymposium2016-44421-lowresCellist Rufus Cappadocia’s performance at Sound Symposium was a collection of intertwining oral and musical stories of origins, journeys, and transformations that created an overall sense of human (and non-human) interconnectedness. The origin of one note or melodic phrase on Rufus’ five string cello may go through various journeys and transformations, whether it be through his playing techniques, such as bowing, plucking, “slapping/popping” or through his wah-pedal and bass amp, that ends up infusing various culturally specific musical ideas from many geographical spaces and time periods. This performance style recognizes and negotiates the spaces and intersections between story and music, which reveals a fluidity that prompts the listener to consider ideas of sameness while acknowledging and respecting difference.

The inner space of the D.F. Cook Hall was filled with a melodic blend of various kinds of music from Rufus’ repertoire: Gregorian Chants, modal styles from the Middle East, Funk, Salsa, Blues, and “intergalactic.” Rufus remarked that they are all like people or entities that are inside of him and transform into a personified form to him as he plays them. This blending of “kinds” of music/people reminds me of a literary analysis technique I borrow from Srinivas Aravamudan, in which I consider what kind of story/music this is, and the kind(s) of interpretations that promote the emergence of other questions about kin, kindred, and kindness. Rufus traces and maps these lineages through his playing and the oral stories he offers between songs as he evokes the migration of many of these musical practices and how we carry them as they live in us, and grow, and evolve. But as the audience is taken on a journey inward, the music repositions us and decenters the human hierarchy as he discusses and promotes human and non-human relationships through the piece “Prayer” (dedicated to recent activism against the practice of fracking for oil that endangers watersheds), and takes us far outside of ourselves and our Earth-centered models of thinking in a piece he refers to as intergalactic.

As I complete writing this blog and my reflections on Rufus’ performance from 36,000 feet in the air, somewhere between St. John’s and Guelph, I must say that this sense of kinds, kin, kindred, and kindness has travelled with me back to my origins. For me, Rufus’ performance reflected the entire Sound Symposium’s promotion of interconnectedness, support, community, co-creation, and collaboration, as well as my personal experience as an audience member/ student over these past two weeks. If you have not attended this biennial event, or seen/heard Rufus Cappadocia’s music, I highly suggest that you do.