To Sneth and back with Rushad Eggleston

SARANAC LAKE – There are those among us who have had a brush with death, but a brush with Sneth isn’t quite as common.

Cellist Rushad Eggleston uses music to give his audience a window into that ever-changing realm. It’s a place where one might see a fiery ostrich of Norway, meet the Mouse Princess or witness a gargoyle coming to life.

Eggleston will perform at Pendragon Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and at Winter Carnival Variety Show at the Harrietstown town hall at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“Sneth is the placeholder name for my mythical world,” Eggleston explained. “Some of my songs are kind of Earth adventures mixed in with some Sneth experience. I like making things up, and I like telling stories. The imagination is a powerful thing.”

There’s more to a Rushad Eggleston show than fantasy, though. His show is a performance, complete with flashy gallivanting, intricate playing, wild storytelling and some of the most unique sounds ever produced on a cello.

It isn’t chamber music, but it isn’t bluegrass, rock or folk music, either. Much like Sneth, it’s whatever Eggleston wants it to be.

“Music is the most fun when you make it up,” Eggleston said. “I’ve definitely had stints of playing other peoples’ music or traditional music, but for me it’s the most fun to make new sounds from scratch.”

The idea of incorporating a mythical land into his music began when Eggleston was a boy. Sneth quickly became a catch-all for whatever unique or strange ideas the young musician had, and it was immediately different from other fantasy worlds in that many human problems simply don’t exist there.

“It’s kind of an extension of my consciousness,” Eggleston said. “A lot of people make up worlds and tales, and I feel like a lot of them have the same problems as Earth. Take ‘Lord of the Rings’ for example. It’s a mythical world where it’s cool enough to have trolls and elves and orcs, but they’re still at war. To me, that’s the problem with Earth. There’s soft, sensitive flesh and there’s hard metal. Just those two things guarantee that there’s going to be a certain amount of pain. If I’m making up a world, I want it to be a place I can escape to that doesn’t have those same sets of problems.”

All sorts of made-up organisms find a place in Sneth, and there are even made-up words for them to speak. They may sound like garbled nonsense to Earth-based ears, but in Sneth, there seems to be comprehension in the absurd.

“I’ve been making up words since I was about 10,” Eggleston said. “I like the sound and the freedom to say words that don’t have any inherent meaning. I write all the words down. I don’t define them, at least not yet. Maybe when I’m older I’ll make a dictionary and try to make all these words mean something, but right now they’re just sounds, like doorways into a mythic zone.”

There are also words that don’t get written down. They come out in a freestyle, improvised wave of skat-like phrasing, and the more attentive the crowd, the easier they flow.

“I call it getting Pentecostal,” Eggleston said. “No one has come along and proved to me in any convincing sense that, when I’m on stage and really feeling it, that it is not a spiritual experience. I’m not claiming that it’s any particular spiritual sense, but if I were to get spiritual, that’s what I would want it to feel like – where you’re so taken with the moment, you’re not thinking about any troubles or anything.”

With all the imagination and creativity that comes from Eggleston’s show comes a serious side. Eggleston isn’t just weird for the sake of being weird. The Berkley School of Music in Boston graduate’s playing is dynamic and complex. His right hand bounces from bow to plucking with indefatigable precision and the fingers on his left hand scuttle across his cello’s neck like a tarantula jigging it up. The music is upbeat, playful, well-composed and as diverse as Sneth is ever-evolving.

Eggleston is constantly developing new cello methods and writing new material, sometimes up to seven songs a week, so it’s easy for him to promise a different experience at every show.

“It’s every musician’s duty to fill the world music that they wish was in the world,” Eggleston said. “It’s your job to put that music out there. I’m really just representing a lot of sounds that I like. I’ve studied a lot and listened to a lot of different kinds of music, and they all resonate with me in different ways.”

Eggleston said he also draws inspiration from his surroundings and from things that happen in his life. A recent trip to Spain and his engagement to his fiancee, Mouse Princess, have provided him with his latest pool of inspiration.

One of his most epic songs, the “Mouse Princess Adventure Theme Song,” stemmed from meeting Mouse Princess, the princess of Sneth. She now tours with Eggleston and helps with the promotion and planning of his shows.

Mouse Princess has inspired other stories as well, some of which Eggleston said might be performed Thursday.

“To be as weird as I am and pursuing such abstract goals, and to have a really supportive woman, is a pretty fortunate thing, I think,” Eggleston said. “Somebody could tell you to stop pursing these childish dreams and chase some concrete, but she’s just down for the adventure. She’s not pulling me in another direction; in fact, she’s my biggest supporter.”