De Vaca in the experimental De Vaca ensemble?
I stumbled upon a bunch of youtube videos by a visionary music ensemble called “The Cabeza de Vaca Arcestra”. Not only does this ensemble share the same name as the 16th century conquistador, but so does it’s conductor—James Cabeza de Vaca . After watching videos of this orchestra perform, I couldn’t resist using them for my blog post. This experimental ensemble fuses sound and light to create magical, transporting auras at their performances which are often described as chilling and spiritual. Although I have no idea whether or not this orchestra makes any intentional reference to the Cabeza de Vaca we read in class, I found many parallels between the Arcestra and its conductor James Cabeza de Vaca, and the 16th century de Vaca.
In a series of interviews
, conductor James Cabeza de Vaca reveals the incorporation of ritual and religion into his compositions. For example, performances of the Cabeza de Vaca Arcestra have included séances and exorcisms. The ensemble's ritualistic performances and incorporation of the occult is comparable to the role of Cabeza de Vaca and his men as physicians. Moreover, James Cabeza de Vaca, who claims to have had a ‘musical rebirth’, is particularly comparable to Cabeza de Vaca because both represent leading figures inspired by a ‘greater force’. Like Cabeza de Vaca, James works to 'gently guide' those around him in a certain direction; in describing the experience and mood he creates at performances, he states: “I let things happen naturally…let them go where they're supposed to go and just gently guide them” (interview
Another statement by James Cabeza that reminded me of Cabeza de Vaca was in response to a question he was asked about unexplainable or supernatural experiences:
“I have magic hands, you know? I’ve been through a lot, physically, experiencing insane amounts of pain…and I think that takes you to a really far out place. It brings you a huge amount of empathy as well. It’s taken my magic to a different level" (interview
Both Cabeza de Vacas have suffered and have found strength and value in this suffering. Also, James' reference to his own ‘magic hands’ could also be related to Cabeza de Vaca as a healer or as a saving, Jesus-like figure.
I attached a video to the post, but here is another:
Cabeza de Vaca Orchestra - March to Mount Shasta