Billed as “Ten Days That Will Change How Your Hear the World,” the Sound Symposium really is the most unique festival in the province, and maybe the country’s most original festival of music.

This year they have more than 50 performers from 6 different countries. Read all about them here.

Take, for example, the event happening Monday July 9th at the LSPU Hall (8pm): Rokkur … with Newfoundland Knitters and Storytellers

Also on the bill:
Doron Sadja — The Building Blocks of Losing One’s Self Oneself: Multi-sensory Experience
Payton MacDonald — Sonic Divide: Music for bicycle, voice, and percussion

Rokkur’s Performances are Based on Old Tools and Processes for Preparing, Hand-spinning, and Knitting Yarn

Sarah Albu of Rokkur makes music with old fashioned spinning tools. One of these tools, a traditional spinning-wheel, is called “Rokkur” in the Faroese language.

As these tools are used to make wool into yarn and yarn into garment, they produce sound. Using electronics, the artists amplify and augment the sounds and add instrumental and vocal sound, creating a tapestry of sonic textures, upon which songs, stories, and musical improvisations are formed.

At their show, they will be collaborating with local storytellers and knitters.

Albu Came to Make Music from Spinning Tools by Tapping into her Family History of Tapestry

“My own professional practice is in music and performance, but work with textiles is deeply ingrained in my family history. Both of my grandmothers (Italian on my mother’s side, Romanian on my father’s side) were proficient in knitting and crochet, as well as sewing, embroidery, and lace making and I understand this goes back for many generations,” Albu says.

“Watching both grandmothers make so many household things out of tradition and habit (and stubborn all-weathering creativity?), after it was no longer a necessity, heavily influenced the way I make music and my DIY roots/sensibilities.”

Knitting would eventually become a connecting point for her and her maternal grandmother. “We were only in the same place once or twice a year. She would send me stitch swatches in the mail with handwritten instructions on how to do different stitches, or half-finished projects for me to continue knitting.”

Rokkur’s Sound Explores the Internal Rhythym of Knitting

“In our early discussions about the project,”Albu says of Rokkur, “one of the things we were most fascinated with was the contrast between the perceived silence of these activities and the inner experience of knitting or spinning. These are not loud processes, but they have an internal rhythm that is experienced by the spinner/knitter.

“We were very interested in exploring the kinds of ‘imaginary’ sounds that we could relate to the rhythm of the physical work, or even extract from the physical process. We are also interested in the space for solitary reflection and community gathering that woolworking offers in many cultures.”

The Band is a Long Distance Collaboration 

The three members of Rokkur are located all over the world, but stay in touch by sharing inspriations, articles, and ideas on Facebook Messenger.

“It’s funny to think about working on a project that deals with one of the world’s oldest technologies (tools for making wool) in a non-physical space (the internet),” she says.

“The messenger group has started to feel familiar, like a cozy living room or something. Usually the way it works is whoever is on the ground (physically closest) to the place where we will work or perform next becomes a sort of team captain and does the groundwork leading up to the performance, finding spaces and community members and local materials.”

What to Expect at Their St. John’s Show: (Who Knows)

As for what to expect at their St. John’s performance, who knows, not even Albu does. And that’s what’s so great about Sound Symposium.

“Our performances are always different, and the musical content varies greatly depending on where we are, who we’re with, and what we’ve been listening to lately. We are all improvisors with different backgrounds. We make a lot of space for the sounds made by the instruments and tend to focus on the relationship between the visual/physical and the sounds, some parts can be very quiet and reflective, others more loud and explosive. I’m really excited about including local fiber artists from the St. John’s area and involving vocal storytelling this time around, weaving that into the soundscape.”

Rokkur will be also giving a FREE workshop on making music with woolmaking gear on July 6th at the LSPU Hall (2:30pm).