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Colophon: What Cicero Said

Categories: Midd Blogosphere


Next fall the third-semester Latin class will read Cicero’s first speech against Catiline. After spending about half the semester putting the text under a microscope, making sure we can account for every word and construction, we’ll take a 50-minute class period and read the speech aloud, going in turns around the room (Yes, LATN 0201a-f13, I’m talking about you; consider yourselves warned!).

That will be our version of what this photograph captures: an all-out extravaganza of a production about famous moments in Cicero’s life, from his attack on Catiline, to the trial and execution of Catiline’s fellow conspirators, to Cicero’s banishment for the high-handed treatment of these Roman citizens, and on to his joyous recall from that exile. As the photo shows, in 1910 the cast included more than 100 students. Some 1,500 people saw the drama, which was in Latin and ran for three hours. The Latin class will have fewer than a dozen students, and we will be our own audience.

Those lower numbers might make one lament “O tempora! O mores!” (Oh the times! Oh the behavior!) as Cicero did. This may be his most famous phrase. It seems to have been a personal favorite, employed in at least four speeches between 70 BCE and 45 BCE. In other words, Cicero was pretty much always ready to see decline.

My own view is less alarmist. Of course I’d love to have the entire College community spend months working up and presenting in Latin a drama based on late-Roman republican history, but I will thoroughly enjoy poring over one speech with dedicated students and then performing it even in the confines of a classroom.

Cicero’s sarcasm, hyperbole, and elaborate personifications (at one point he pretends to be Italy, reproaching him for letting Catiline go unchecked) make the speech lively and fun. You know that you are reading a great work of literature when you laugh out loud at two-thousand-year-old jokes.

Download: Why I Love Breaking Bad

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

BreakingBadMy favorite television program takes me deep into the mind of a monster, allowing me to follow along as he transforms from what appears to be a decent man into a sociopath. Breaking Bad has many strengths as an example of innovative and artistic television, including its brilliant use of visual and audio style, exemplary performances, and a compelling plot that consistently creates a craving for the next episode. But more than anything else, I love it because of its psychological complexity, crafting the character of Walter White, who is always changing yet feels consistent; whose motives are never made explicit but feel tantalizingly real; and who does horrible things but still makes me want to watch his story.

The pleasures of Breaking Bad are in the character’s journey, where we find ourselves uncomfortably in situations we’d rather not be in, aligned with an immoral criminal whom we remember as having once been decent and sympathetic. Thus I find myself loving Walter White, not as a person (even though I do personify him and grant him a more robust interior life than nearly any other fictional character I can think of) but as a character—I find his behavior, his arc, and his enactment by Bryan Cranston and the program’s production team endlessly fascinating. And as I write this, I eagerly await his final act as the series concludes this fall, uncertain of how to balance my desire for moral retribution against his crimes and my deep emotional connection to him.

Looking for America

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Ryan Kim ’14 wanted to discover what it means to be an American.

So last summer, the California native hit the rails, traveling 15,348 miles during the course of seven weeks. Not surprisingly, this exploration of country also became an exploration of self.


New Orleans, Louisiana
My journey began in the Crescent City, where, two days into my trip, I began to feel as if I were in a foreign country. I was dazzled by the strangeness, the novelty of everything: brightly painted colonial French houses, jazz horns, dancing all night, bikini-clad greeters in the doorways of Bourbon Street cabarets, Mardi Gras beads and Spanish moss hanging from the trees, the steam of hot, powdered French beignets. On this second day, I took an eight-mile trek north of New Orleans into the city of Metairie in the thick midday humidity of the Southern summer. Seeking respite from the oppressive heat, I decided to stop at an unfamiliar supermarket called Dorignac’s.

Inside, I wandered around admiring some of the store’s unique features, like its aisles, which I learned were spaced 30 percent wider than the industry standard to accommodate elderly regulars. When I’d indulged my supermarket fascination and stopped sweating so profusely, I asked a passing employee for directions before leaving. I must not have enunciated clearly or spoken loudly enough, because he looked at me quizzically without response. But rather than recognize one of these obvious causes for his confused expression, I immediately leaned on my instinctual habit of noticing the exotic, and I asked him if he spoke English. Without waiting for his answer, I walked away quickly, cheeks still flushed, but now from embarrassment, leaving him both confused and affronted.

Yazoo City, Mississippi
In Yazoo City, Southern hospitality was in full effect. I met a local family, the Adamses, and they spent an entire Saturday touring me through their hometown.

We started at 9 am with a family breakfast of bacon, eggs, and buttery biscuits for a grand party of nine. Then we covered what seemed like every inch of town, including the federal prison, a catfish farm, lumberyards, neighborhoods of dingy and destitute government-built housing, and wide boulevards of fancy homes with well-kept lawns and gardens. They showed me devastation wrought by a recent tornado. And we concluded the tour by observing monster-truck mud races.

That night I had dinner with three of my guides, and I felt comfortable enough to bring up the subject of regional accents. “I consider you all to speak with a Southern accent,” I said. “What kind of accent would you say I speak with?”

D’Ann, one of my hosts, stunned me: “We speak with su-thern draw-ul, but you, you don’t have an accent. You speak like an educay-ted person.” D’Ann and her sister-in-law, Libby, are teachers, and the man who sat between them, Paul, is an accomplished businessman.
On the playground growing up, my friends and I used to ignorantly adopt Southern accents to caricaturize simplicity and stupidity. I’d never thought about how that was probably rooted in a stereotypical belief in the cultural superiority of the Northeast and the West.

Cadillac, Michigan
Hermann’s European Café and Hotel on the main street in downtown Cadillac is owned and operated by a world-renowned Austrian chef named Hermann Suhs. I’d walked into his establishment and proudly negotiated the nightly room fee down from $80 to $65 by taking Room 5, which had a broken air conditioner. I thought I’d simply open the window. Yet at 11:30 that evening, while I was brushing my teeth, I felt my room had become uncomfortably warm. I was dismayed to find a sign on the windowsill that read, “Do not open window.”

I disregarded the note and pulled up the shade, only to find another note taped to the glass, which read, “Seriously, do not open the window. The alarm will go off, and the police will have to come.”

Remembering that the hallway outside my room had been particularly cool, I decided to step out for a quick breather.  As I was standing there, in the upstairs hallway of the seven-room hotel, above the restaurant, I heard a quiet click behind me. I turned in horror to find myself locked out—wearing nothing but boxers, with my mouth full of toothpaste. I spit the foam out at the back door of the building, and then I began knocking on the doors of the other six rooms. Finally, I managed to rouse an elderly man, bleary-eyed and reasonably suspicious. He gave me a cup of water to rinse out my mouth and called Chef Hermann to come rescue me. I waited for 20 minutes, feeling hangdog in the hall, as Chef drove over from his house by the lake to come open my door. Grumpily, with his shoulders slumped by interrupted sleep, he let me into my room. “I told you not to take Room 5!”

Astoria, Oregon
While jogging along the tracks of the waterfront trolley in Astoria, Oregon, I came across a conveyer belt lifting thousands of small fish into an industrial building covered in grey sheet metal. I’d found Bornstein Seafood, one of the few fish canneries still operating in this historically maritime town. After I snapped a couple of photos and asked the workers lingering outside a few questions, the plant’s mechanical engineer, Rick, offered to give me a tour.

Inside this noisy metal box of a building, Rick steered me through a fantastically complicated maze of conveyer belts staffed by dozens and dozens of workers spread out along the assembly line. He explained every step of the process: sorting for deformities; removing the head, tail, and guts; packing in equally weighted boxes; conducting random inspections for waste efficiency and quality control; adding unique labeling dependent on destination; and following the procedures for refrigeration and shipping. Approximately 130 workers are paid about $10 an hour, working in 12-hour shifts to process 20­–25 tons of fish every hour.

In about 45 minutes, I received a crash course in the vertical structure of the cannery business, from the way fishermen use phosphorus or plane-spotting to locate schools of fish to the fact that most of the sardines they process (the world’s largest sardine) are shipped to Asia and Australia for consumption, since Americans don’t have an appetite for sardines this size. At the end of the tour, I asked to capture Rick with a photo—wire rimmed glasses, Steve Jobs turtleneck, long grey ponytail, and encyclopedic brain of all things fish and machinery.

Trinidad, Colorado
Though I’d taken the train into this attractive town with red brick-laid streets, I left Trinidad on a Greyhound bus to Denver, where I could switch to a train line that would take me to Iowa.

Interestingly, though perhaps more common than I’d realized, the bus met its passengers at a gas station that doubled as a bus stop, where the attendant inside printed tickets behind the counter. With nowhere else to be, I patiently stood outside, sweating, with my bags on an unshaded curb under a cloudless summer sky.

A few other passengers restlessly paced and grumbled, seeking reprieve from the afternoon’s dry, blazing heat. They made repeated inquiries as to the whereabouts of our ride, but their agitation did nothing to truncate the delay.

Amidst this simmering, the door to the station swung open, jingling with greeting bells. A teenager of maybe 17 strode out, wearing dark jeans and an overstuffed camping backpack, all as dirty as his blond hair. Unabashedly, although there was plenty of space around, he squatted just a few short feet away from me. I tried to mind my own business, watching cars pass on the interstate.

He looked up at me over his left shoulder and asked, almost rhetorically, “Waitin’ on the bus?”


“Awesome.” With little pause, “Hot dog?”  He eagerly offered one of the steaming, plastic-wrapped purchases he cradled in each hand.

Fort Madison, Iowa
During a casual ramble through town on my first day, I found Fort Madison’s historical society museum, housed in the former train depot, wedged between a busy road and two heavily used train tracks. There was an old man in front wearing a red cap and denim overalls stretched over his T-shirt and enormous belly, watering a small garden of shrubs and flowers. His name was Andy Andrews.

When he saw me, he dropped his hose and invited me inside to guide me through the small exhibit that documented his town’s history, all the while incessantly chewing an unlit cigar that wobbled precariously on his lower lip.

Over the next couple of days, I ran into Andy a number of times—and some of his fellow retirees, who also volunteer to keep the museum open. Andy made a conscientious effort to help me with my principal traveling objective, to familiarize myself with each town to the greatest extent possible, by introducing me to residents and inviting me to community events. I only had three days in Fort Madison, but friendships form fast in small towns and kind men are easy to like.

At the end of my stay, I went back to the museum to say goodbye and to return a bike I’d borrowed. Andy looked at me wistfully and said,

“Maybe if you ever come back, I’ll still be alive.”

Malvern, Arkansas
I walked into the Hot Spring County Building looking for someone who could tell me about Malvern’s economic history. I was in the right place. County Judge Bill Scrimshire (“Call me Judge Bill”) and his pals were seated around the foyer of his office shooting the breeze about times present and past. They had me take a seat, offered me some coffee, and continued meandering their way through the last half-century, letting me interject with intermittent questions. I had a wonderful time listening as they remembered, misremembered, recounted, clarified, and verified facts and anecdotes against each other’s memories. I stayed on until the workday ended and the men stood up to go home.

The next day was my last in town. I swung back by Judge Bill’s office for yet another “farewell forever.” After he and I posed for a photo, his honor reached into his pocket and pulled out a fistful of change, which he dropped into my hand.

“You must be hungry as a traveling student.  Get yourself some lunch!  Here, is that enough?”

He turned around and marched into his office. I followed him in and found him digging through unruly piles of paper. He located his wallet, pulled out a five-dollar bill, and pushed it into my hand.

Wells, Maine
A fleet of trolleys runs a continuous circuit through town, offering cheap rides to the tens of thousands of visitors who flood Wells every summer. After hopping off one of these trolleys to get some saltwater taffy at a beachside confectionary, I boarded another one on the other side of the parking lot. Not knowing that this wasn’t an official stop, I hopped up the stairs and was immediately berated by the driver. Though she shouted at me quite aggressively, she took no action to kick me off. I quickly sat down, but then found myself on the first bench directly behind her, in clear view of her rearview mirror in the otherwise empty car.

At this point, I felt pretty irritable myself, feeling unnecessarily reprimanded for a harmless and honest mistake. I stewed for a minute, wondering if I should make a retributive, sarcastic remark and return the negativity she’d given me. After all, I was 20, tired, and lonely after seven weeks on the train, and someone had to get it! I paused for a minute longer, just long enough to notice the warm breeze washing through the windowless cabin. I extended the pause and wordlessly acknowledged that most disagreements are rooted in misunderstanding.

I apologized. Perhaps the silence had cooled her down, as well. Unsolicited, she started to tell me about the town, and for several minutes we carried on a great conversation about Wells, about my travels, about her job.

When I disembarked, she didn’t punch my ride card, giving me the lift for free.

Somewhere in the middle of America
I was aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder on a 46-hour journey from Chicago to Portland, Oregon, seated at a table in the lounge car to kill time watching cornfields.

A chubby preteen entered through the sliding doors ahead of me, clutching a deck of cards. I realized, as he did, that all the tables were full, so I invited him to join me at mine. We introduced ourselves, then I taught this 12-year-old Kentuckian named Cameron how to play War.

We flipped cards mindlessly, pushing them back and forth across the table, chitchatting. Cameron uncorked with little prompting, telling me a series of unconnected and delightfully earnest anecdotes.

I listened, amused and content, as he opined about anything that came to mind, from his disgust for Kentucky Fried Chicken to his distaste towards reading. “I’d rather eat a dog crap than read a . . . ” He couldn’t finish. But then, Cameron talked about his love for writing: “When we write at school, I just write . . . I just write paragraphs.”

It was peaceful; it was late afternoon, and we were chug-chugging our way across southern Wisconsin. Suddenly, Cameron stopped. He slowly cocked his head and stared at me with a suspicious squint.

For a moment, neither he nor I said anything. Then he asked, “So . . . do you wake up every day at six in the morning and go running or something?”

I laughed.

Though I’d felt relaxed throughout our conversation, Cameron had still seen me for who I was: a high-energy, intense person, the type who rose early each morning and “went running or something.” He revealed what I’d find all summer. I thought I was out studying strangers, when in fact I, too, was being dissected, inspected. I was meeting other Americans; they, too, were meeting me. And as they met me, I met me. It was easy to feel like a wallflower in unfamiliar moments, when I was watching the world operate as if I weren’t there.

But my presence was actually an intrinsic part of the novelty; I discovered myself as I discovered America. A foreign man in his native land.

Ryan Kim blogged extensively about his travels at ryankim.blog.com. This story arose from a spring-term independent writing course with Jay Parini.

Pursuits: On a Roll

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

logrollerIn the late 1800s, when the demand for lumber was at its peak, loggers used rivers to transport timber from the woods to sawmills. It was not uncommon for logs to jam, which forced workers to hop between logs to break the congestion. Staying dry and on the log the longest quickly grew into a game, and soon enough lumber companies sponsored their own logrollingcontests. Now, a century later, Wisconsin native and logroller extraordinaire Abby Hoeschler ’10 is on a mission to revitalize the northern-woods tradition and bring it to an international arena.

Abby was born into a logrolling dynasty. As soon as she learned how to swim, at age four, she learned to logroll from her mother, Judy, a seven-time world champion. Judy taught classes at a local YWCA and often toted Abby and her three siblings to the pool, so much so that Abby barely remembers a day without it. Starting in the six-and-under division, Abby flew up the competitive logrolling circuit, going elite by age 14. She worked hard to maintain her top-three logrolling spot and her three-time boom-running world title. (Boom running is a timed event in which competitors race across logs attached to one another in the water. )

Rather than attend summer soccer camp, Abby would logroll along with the rest of her family. (That’s what it took for the Hoeschler clan to win 16 world titles and counting.) “It’s always been something that defines us,” Abby says. “And we like to keep the wins in the family.”
When Abby’s older sister, Katie ’04, packed her bags for Middlebury, she didn’t think twice about bringing a log to college. It wasn’t just for training—Katie began to teach other students the sport in what became a J-term class staple, with teaching duties handed down from sister to sister. Over the next decade of Hoeschlers, logrolling became a physical education credit at Middlebury. The sport grew so popular, in fact, that Abby established a January logrolling tournament.

Upon her graduation, Abby’s parents proposed an idea they had been throwing around for years: to create a synthetic log. A ban on shipping untreated cedar wood out of the country was hindering the sport’s potential globalization, and as staunch promoters of this northern-woods tradition, the Hoeschlers felt it was their duty to find a way around this obstacle. As the strongest advocate (and natural teacher) in the family, Abby was the perfect person to take on the project.

While cross-country skiing with her father one winter afternoon, Abby serendipitously ran into two of the best tinkering engineers around, Mike Cichanowski, founder of Wenonah Canoes, and Jeff Van Fossen, cofounder of the synthetic violin-bow company CodaBow. One makes a recreational product that floats in the water and the other makes a synthetic product that imitates wood, thought Abby. All she needed was to combine the two skills and she would have her log! Jeff put her in touch with two student engineers at Winona State University, who helped create a prototype that imitates the cellular makeup of a tree. Using a combination of fiberglass, wood, and foam, the team created the first viable synthetic log, a 60-pound cylinder built of high-density polyethylene that fills up with water and floats, spins, and reacts just like a cedar log. Key Log Rolling, the Hoeschlers’ dream company, was born.

Now that Abby has an easily transportable synthetic log in production, she’s working on the other half of the equation: growing the sport. “When people asked if there’s a market for logrolling, I never knew how to respond,” says Abby. “Then I realized, we’re creating the market. That’s where we want to be.” So far, the summer camp industry has been highly receptive: Key Log will supply more than 40 camps across the U.S. with a log this season, along with the first international camp in Switzerland and a summer school in Mexico.

Already, five colleges and universities—a market Abby has yet to explore—have logrolling clubs, and every day she receives inquiries from schools as far away as Australia that want to start their own groups.

No other company is promoting the sport as much as Key Log is—not even the U.S. Log Rolling Association. “We didn’t set out to create this synthetic product just to sell it,” Abby says. “We want to grow the sport and make it more accessible to people because they love it as much as we do.”

Madison Kahn is the assistant managing editor at Boston magazine and a freelance writer.

In the Queue: A Man’s World

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

realmanT Cooper ’94 has done an extraordinary thing. He has written a book about a subject that many people either find uncomfortable or uninteresting because it is so far removed from their own lives, and he has made it entertaining and consciousness expanding. Cooper’s latest book, Real Man Adventures, talks about the world of the transgender male, which is Cooper’s world. He takes us through his transition from female to male to the point today, where he is an adoring husband and stepfather to two children; he tells this story with humor and without dwelling on the intensely personal details that discussions of transgender sometimes do.

Reading Real Man Adventures is a little like eating  a smorgasbord. The dishes are all different and served in a variety of ways, and when sampled in small portions, they are fully satisfying. Cooper’s chapters are similarly set out for sampling—highly varied, short, and delectable. There are interviews, lists, letters, descriptions of dreams, snippets of conversations. In a brief interview with his wife, he asks her to list five ways that he is “typically male.” First on the list: he’s “self-involved.” An interview with an LA police officer, who transitioned from female to male, includes a discussion about the fact that the officer transitioned into “America’s most hated (a black male)” and Cooper transitioned into “America’s most loved (a white male).”

In one chapter, a transcript of a telephone conversation between Cooper and a State Department official shows a frustrated Cooper, who had been living as a man for years, desperately trying to change the gender on his passport: “All those guys in Iraq, getting their genitals blown off by IEDs, do you make them change their passport from M to F when they come home, because they don’t have penises anymore?” he finally asked, because the rule required him to prove that he’d had complete sexual reassignment surgery. On a similar bent, another chapter is devoted to a survey Cooper conducted of 31 men about whether they pee standing up or sitting down, and one chapter lists “40 successful men my stature or shorter.” Among them: Jon Stewart and Justin Bieber.

Having experienced life as both genders, he certainly can speak with authority about the differences. He claims that men have it better. Males earn more income, do not get sexually assaulted or beaten, and have more power and clout in general, he says. And all men are members of the “Man Club,” of which there are many benefits: “In Man Club, if you raise your voice and express anger about something, other members of the club actually pay attention and often respond favorably.” And, “In Man Club, you really do talk about sports with strangers when at a loss for conversation.”

But, unfortunately, there is fear mixed in with the pleasure of being male, and these fears are also documented in Real Man Adventures, from incidents of transgender people being assaulted in public restrooms to being unmasked by airport body scanners. Cooper describes a nightmare in which he’s rushed to the hospital, bleeding, and the doctors and nurses are working feverishly to save him. As they cut away his pants, they discover he’s not what they expected, and the shock causes them to lose focus on saving his life.

Cooper wants people to understand that “I am happy and able to be myself in the world.” Although, he says, if he could ask for anything, he’d ask for a few more inches of height

In the Queue: The Gift of Friendship

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

WalksWithSierraHave you ever wondered what your dog is thinking on one of those long, meandering walks you take together? In her charming book, Walks with Sierra: The Story of an Old Soul, Liz Brooking ’81 takes a stab at voicing her dog’s thoughts as he journeys through his last year of life. Sierra is a stray that turns up at her door “one cold and blustery November day.” Brooking knows nothing about him except that he’s old, but she quickly falls in love with him.

By telling Sierra’s story through his own voice, Brooking attempts to delve into what’s at the core of the ageless bond between humans and dogs. Told in short, eloquent vignettes, each with a photo, the book follows Sierra’s wanderings around the rural farm in Pennsylvania where he lives with Brooking as he comments on everything from his pig sister, Wilma, to the heron in the creek and the fox in the field. Beautiful images of nature flow through his thoughts as he contemplates basic elements of life such as love, survival, and loss. And always present is his relationship with Brooking and the feelings it evokes in both of them. Sierra is indeed an old soul and he knows his death is near, and he knows how much Brooking dreads it. But in the end, the deep bond they have shared becomes the means for healing for the author. Be sure to have your tissues handy as you fall in love with Sierra yourself and experience his friendship and his loss.

The Score

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

KafumbeFor an ethnomusicologist, music without context just doesn’t sing.

The adungu is a bow-shaped harp that accompanies epic and lyrical songs. The woods, skins, and fibers that make its body are now far from Uganda where they were cut and cured. The strings are nylon, though, readily available in Vermont. It is often tuned to the diatonic scale, which is rare in Ugandan music but was standard for music of the British and other Western colonizers. A traditional instrument like the adungu is created in tandem with its purpose; this adungu’s purpose is to last, and to teach, and to sing the students who play it into another culture.

Damascus Kafumbe is the oldest child of schoolteachers. Except for a period when armed conflict forced his family to flee to the bush, he grew up in the village of Kagoma, outside Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Through the day, music streamed from two neighboring royal enclosures of the Kingdom of Buganda, accompanying royals and the king in their duties. As a young child, Kafumbe stole time from his chores to linger by the reed walls of those royal enclosures, to watch and listen. He started to make instruments from papaya leaves and stems, tin cans, and plastic bags. He took so naturally to “real” instruments that while still in elementary school, he represented his country in the 1994 World Festival of Children’s Theatre and was invited to play in a leading Ugandan troupe.

Kafumbe recalls, “One of my teachers told me, ‘an instrument is not just something you strike to make a sound. It is kin, like a brother or sister, a wife or husband, and you must care for it.’” From Baganda master musicians, Kafumbe learned to craft lyres and fiddles and drums and harps, which calls on spirit and intention as much as skill. He journeyed to learn other Africans’ songs and dances. He recorded his own playing and and that of others. He began a scholar’s path at Makerere University in Uganda and did his graduate studies at Florida State University, where for seven years he directed an African music ensemble. “I wanted to be an ambassador for my culture,” he says.

“Ethnomusicology is about understanding the role of making and being music in a society,” explains Greg Vitercik, head of Middlebury’s music department. “Damascus embodies both.”

The “why” is more important than the “how,” Kafumbe tells his students. Why do humans make music? Why do these people make this music now? In his courses, Kafumbe and his students ask these questions of cultures as diverse as the Irish and the Balinese and as deceptively distant as Congolese and Cuban. The students learn the facets an ethnomusicologist cuts into these questions to help illuminate a culture.

Kafumbe has also stirred student interest in performing by creating the semester-long African Music and Dance Ensemble, already known for rousing concerts before packed audiences. No audition is required, the class schedule is rigorous, and 90 percent of the performers have no prior instrumental experience.

The ensemble rolls out unfamiliar terrain: students sing in Ugandan languages, learn to play instruments they’ve never known, and learn to work in scales, timbres, and rhythms that dovetail and depend on each other. There are no scores—Kafumbe is the score. He is a quietly rigorous yet brotherly presence with a bottomless repertoire of illustrative stories and cultural details. He teaches the students to play as his elders taught him, through aural and oral instruction and a sense of joining in. The music he composes and arranges for the ensemble speaks in voices both modern and ancient, of celebrations, migrations, lessons from nature, struggles against power. By the end of the semester, his students hold and play their instruments and complete each other’s musical sentences like kin.

Kafumbe continues to plumb the meaning of his own people’s music. An upcoming book examines how the Kawuugulu royal drums of Buganda (and their singers and dancers) embody and influence the kingdom’s socio-political structures and processes. This time he’s inside the reeds of the royal enclosure, and his mother’s membership in the clan with hereditary rights over the royal drums grants him access to secrets any scholar would envy.

His students have begun traveling to Africa to experience for themselves how the people live with music. One young composer is expanding his musical vocabulary by living in Uganda with Kafumbe’s musician friends and with the madinda, ndara, and mbaire, which are wooden xylophones; a fledgling ethnomusicologist is headed for Middlebury’s School Abroad in Cameroon; a psychology major will travel to Uganda with Kafumbe to explore how music salves the wartime traumas of children.

For all of Kafumbe’s students who have heard the life in music and the music in life, could anything be mute again?