A dream retrieval ritual (2014)


In its original form, A Dream Retrieval Ritual was written for the HCE New Music Ensemble as a piece of performance art in which the ensemble rebelled against the conductor and audience in favor of direction from a narrator who herself was struggling to remember the dream from which she had just woken. The ensemble acted as illustration to the dream the narrator described, much in the fashion of a radio play or an extension of the text painting of mannerist madrigals. After several performances of the original version of this piece, it became apparent that it needed treatment as something beyond the confines of performance in order to find its way into the lives of its audience.

A Dream Retrieval (2014) is the second iteration of this piece. In 2014, the piece takes the form of a 40-minute film and accompanying electronic score in surround sound.  The film streams from a computer housed within a found-object sculpture made of bits of mannequin, textbook, newspaper, toy piano, and other discarded artifacts.  Scripted by Gaston, filmmaker Reed Means, and actor/novelist Colin Galloway, the film explores the boundary between creativity and mental illness, demonstrating some of the potential dangers undertaken by a writer who gradually realizes that he does not know whether his compulsion to create is leading him toward a healthy resolution or an unhealthy obsession.  Following the author through a dream, the film visualizes a paranoid, humorous, and heartbreaking dreamscape of sound crafted by Gaston, Kockenschlagger, engineer Adam Lansky, and singer/songwriter Emma Branch.  Branch narrates the author’s experience of seeking clarity and control after being dissolved, evaporated, and rained back onto the Earth in a nightmare of oceans, scrambled eggs, crickets, driftwood, alarm clocks, and harpists.  Emerging at a moment of clarity, the author must decide whether to remember or forget the journey he has endured.

Little Rock gallery Hearne Fine Art nurtured the growth of the project and acted as venue for its introduction to the Arkansas community.  The Hearne presentation of A Dream Retrieval Ritual coincided with the opening of HFA’s twenty-sixth season exhibition entitled Indigo Visions—a compilation by twenty-five professional artists with Arkansas ties.  Artists from across the country submitted works that they considered conceptually relevant to the underlying question:  “What is a dream retrieval ritual?”  Provided with a rough rendering of the piece's audio component, their answers took the form of a colorful array of assemblage, collage, drawings, paintings, photography, prints, and sculptures all available for viewing in the gallery space. These contributions directly added to the idea of Dream Retrieval as a displaying of a comingled, semi-coherent mass of collective memory through which the audience sifted to find the central kernel of inspiration shared between the pieces.

A Dream Retrieval Ritual (2014) was recorded in collaboration with Adam of Lansky Sound using a series of new experimental methods and modified extant methods of capturing spatial audio, including 10-15 channel microphone arrays assembled to capture both hyperrealistic and variably distorted sonic images of both spaces at rest and spaces occupied by musicians. Careful attention was given to the editing of all collected material in order to combine these elements of different spaces and different performances into a continuous, albeit peculiar whole. The end result was a sonic environment continuously shifting in size, shape, and density.

A Dream Retrieval Ritual is at once grim and playful, menacing and humorous.

Dream Retrieval continues to develop in shape and scope. The film component was recently announced an Official Selection at Los Angeles Cinefest 2016. A stereo reduction of the 5.1 film version of the piece itself is now available to stream via SoundCloud. The core creative team behind 2014 are now exploring new methods of distribution for the project, in hopes to break the project out of the confines of a gallery and into more accessible venues.