Abany Times Union Review of Notes Against the Threshold of Dreams
Abany Times Union Review of Notes Against the Threshold of DreamsDate posted: 2006-10-31 11:14:00
By CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY, Staff writer
First published: Monday, October 30, 2006
TROY -- Nobody danced in the aisles. Nobody held cigarette lighters in the
air. These concertgoers slept, but the musicians didn't mind.
Composer Alex Chechile had a strap around his head. It was linked to a
homemade device that recorded his brain waves and transmitted the data to
the computer of fellow musician Zevin Polzin.
Polzin then manipulated the information with a program he designed to create
music based on the brain waves.
The concert -- "Notes Against the Threshold of Dreams" -- was billed as an
exploration of the threshold between waking consciousness and dreams when
audio -- or music -- produced by brain waves is involved.
More than a dozen concertgoing sleepers, spread out randomly on a red rug,
spent the night on foam pallets or inflatable mattresses at the Sanctuary
for Independent Media on 6th Avenue snoozing the night away under the
influence of sound.
The music began at 11 p.m. on Saturday and lasted until 7 a.m. Sunday. The
event was sponsored by The Deep Listening Institute and facilitated by Ione,
a dream counselor and artist director at the institute.
"Deep listening" is a form of meditation based on heightened awareness of
sound, according to the organizers.
As the morning sun tried to penetrate the stained-glass windows of the hall,
the computer used in the performance produced the soft tone of a woman's
voice. A squiggly line projected on a screen behind Polzin and Chechile
illustrated the electric activity of Chechile's brain.
The crests, troughs and intensity of the brain waves subtly, and slowly,
changed the woman's song.
Since this type of music isn't rehearsed, it even surprised the musicians.
"The brain waves would take different pitch shifts and create musical
phrases out of a single note," Polzin said. "It was really unexpected."
Chechile, 26, of Troy, is a master of fine arts student at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute. Polzin, 24, of Kingston, is a music technician and
programmer at The Deep Listening Institute in Kingston.
The musicians, who fell asleep a few times, sat in large sofa chairs on a
raised platform. Chechile said he felt a little self-conscious.
"It's biofeedback so I'm being monitored," he said. "I could hear the
changes in the music and it made me very self-aware."
One idea driving their performance is a quote from John Cage, an
experimental music composer who died in 1992. Cage said, "If you listen to a
sound and it's boring, keep listening until it's not boring."
The sleep concert allowed ample opportunity for that.
"All different things come out that you wouldn't have heard if you didn't
listen for eight hours," Polzin said.
After the sleepers awoke, drank a cup of coffee and snacked on some
pastries, they sat in a circle and Ione asked them about their dreams.
"In this room, our dreams and experiences of the night are still with us,"
Artist Chris Harvey of Troy recalled four dreams, but his last one was the
most vivid. He was standing in a square in Berlin and looking at a building
that resembled a big, pink, fuzzy bunny. The sun was rising and the orange
light on the pink bunny was magnificent, he said.
In another dream, he spoke with the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili
Peppers, but became aware of Polzin and Chechile's music in the background.
He said he was struck by the serenity of the music in contrast to the rock
'n' roll setting of his dream.
Not everybody participated in the discussion.
One man still slept.