Kaffe: My name is Kaffe Matthews, and I think you could say my background is in classical violin, farming and zoology.
Kaffe: The fact that we in the west – I’m based in London – we don’t have anything comparable in terms of restriction. In a way there’s too much freedom; maybe that’s our restriction. We’ve never dealt with physical destruction and war on our streets the way a lot of you have. In another way we are all faced with many, many conflicts, the one right now being focused on capitalism and concern for the environment.
Kaffe: (to interpreter) I just need you to translate one line for me. “Who is the owner of this planet? I need to buy some more, dammit”.
Most of Kaffe’s talk was actually a cycle back through her repertoire. F’rinstance, her 2009 trip to the Galapagos.
Kaffe: When I was first invited to the Galapagos Islands, my first thought was that I shouldn’t go, because it’s a unique environment that humans are destroying and humans shouldn’t go. But then I checked what conservation activists are doing. And they’re tracking sharks to see the impact of humans on their populations.
So I wanted to face my greatest fear: sharks.
A shark is not a not a frightening thing. The first hammerhead shark I saw was beautiful, probably about ts far from me as you are now.
(She couldn’t record their sounds: sadly, sharks are soundless.)
Kaffe: Essentially sharks are millions of years older than dinosaurs. They are the most sophisticated of animals. And they are being slaughtered for sharksfin soup. The worldwide shark population is now reckoned to have declined by 90%,
Plus, she did a listening workshop with local kids and played their resulting work on the (only) local radio station, which everyone listened to! The locals must’ve been adjusting their sets like crazy.
Kaffe: When I was a kid, salmon was an expensive fish that we only ever got when somebody died. Now salmon is bright pink and available everywhere.
Then a bit of backing up: remembering how she started out playing the violin at the age of six with free violin lessons.
Kaffe: What happens with the violin is you are receiving all these vibrations through the bow and through your body, so it’s a lot more fun for the violinist than the audience.
Kaffe: And who were my audience? Mainly white young men who were already studying the kind of experimental music I was making with my violin and my laptop.
And after her first sonic bed in London, she’s been commissioned to make beds in city after city, each one customized: a rough lumber bed in Québec, a hand-carved bed in Shanghai, where she fell in love with the food and the endless history, though perturbed by the invasiveness of the government officers and the odd unwillingness of Chinese to take off their shoes before lying in bed. (She had to create plastic covers for shoes.)
Kaffe: It’s always fascinating to see how different people would behave when they were invited to lie in bed with a stranger.