Western Carolina University senior Kendall Rhymer was recently named the winner of the university’s Sounding WCU art contest.
Rhymer, who is majoring in music education, philosophy and religion, took home the $400 first place prize with her project titled “Tali Tsigwaya Gaduhv (Two Sparrows Town).
Students were invited to submit an original artwork that responds to the Sonic Histories project, a research initiative exploring how students experience and perceive histories of race, class, and (dis)ability on a college campus located in the Southeast. During the 2019-20 academic year, students from across campus were led on a series of listening walks to inquire into past and present soundscapes of WCU. Those sites included the former African Methodist Episcopal Church, the former Cherokee mound, and the fountain in the center of campus.
Rhymer recorded a soundscapes video using the voice of Tom Belt, retired coordinator of WCU’s Cherokee language program, to narrate his thoughts on the history of Two Sparrows, an ancient Cherokee town that is now part of WCU’s campus. Her goal was to find a way to honestly and respectfully explore the history of WCU’s campus as a Cherokee place.
“It was important that this recording be Belt’s own thoughts, and in his own words and language so as to uplift his voice and the history of this place,” Rhymer said.
She used soundscape from around the “Wi” statue, located near Killian Building, to give a sense of place to the recording. Video footage also was taken from the Jackson County Airport.
“I wanted to ensure that throughout the entire recording, Belt’s voice remained the only constant sound, representing the consistency of this place and the Cherokee people,” Rhymer said. “Native sounds invoke place, as well as the sound of machinery, cars honking, etc. showcase how the place has changed since Two Sparrows Town stood here.
“The snare drum represents the passage of time, colonization and everything that stemmed from the meeting of the Cherokee and Europeans. I used an old rudimental solo called the ‘Downfall of Paris,’ attributed to M. Bécourt, because of its history with European militias. The solo is played through twice, once on a field drum, then on a modern concert snare drum, representing the passage of time and new generations of European Americans. After a pause, the snare drum returns more quietly, directly emulating and emphasizing Belt’s voice. The snares are turned off, removing the militaristic sound, and a softly hummed version of WCU’s Alma Mater plays. This represents the inseparable relationship between WCU and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as they work towards reconciliation and reclamation of this campus as a Cherokee place.”