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Norman Lowrey's riverdream through us & Spirit Dreams
performed for Ione's Dream Festival, Saturday 25 October 1997 at 8 pm at The Gallery at Deep Listening Space, Kingston, NY

a review by Tom Bickley (https://about.me/tombickley)

"The house that we live in is made of sound and life is a house made of sound and the people are made from that sound."1

Composer, performer and mask maker Norman Lowrey guided us in perceiving that house, those sounds and ourselves in his very effective/affective works riverdream through us and Spirit Dreams. Both pieces are journeys in which the listeners participate and during which the performers and listeners explore dreamtime. The sounds of the evening included audio recordings of the Delaware River at seven points along its length, a marvelous variety of flute, reed and percussion sounds from masks that Lowrey brought into being, wonderful reading by poet/playwright and Dream Festival director Ione, and improvised playing on conch and percussion by Pauline Oliveros and on tenor recorder by myself, and stone and stick percussion and singing by members of the audience.

For riverdream... the audience formed a circle around a space defined by a pile of stones and a stand of sticks collected from the Delaware River, and closed baskets containing the masks and accompanying capes. Considering the circle as a clock-face, audio speakers stood at 2 4 8 and 10 o'clock, and Oliveros sat at 1 o'clock and I at 7 o'clock. Observing/listening masks of Heorcnean and Listening Raven were at 7 and 11 o'clock. The arrangement formed a mandala, a map for our ritual listening and journeying. Lowrey's program notes complemented the hospitality of his sonic and physical gestures. We listeners/performers/celebrants entered the riverdream via the sounds of rapids at Frost Valley, NY and moved through the "river sounding/listening ceremony in seven dreamings..." guided by masks/spirits of Earthsinger, Bear, Loon Spirit, Water Spirit, Blue Oracle, Spirit of the Dream Time, Inua Yua and Earthsinger, emerging at the mouth of the Delaware in Lewes, DE. During the journey we discovered ourselves in liminal time and space as Lowrey moved in the room, sounding and projecting his mask sounds with gentle processing through the quadraphonic sound system. At various points Lowrey's production assistants Thatcher Collins, Gareth Porter and Daniel Elkins guided the listeners in spiral movement through the space, sounding with the beautiful river stones and listening/sounding with the river sticks. Exciting and peaceful energy filled the Gallery through the run of riverdream through us.>

In Spirit Dreams the audience participated by listening, observing, sometimes by sleeping, and always by dreaming. Ione read texts from a wide variety of times and places, enclosing us in a powerful and graceful cocoon of narration. Lowrey performed sound and movement that was simultaneously deeply grounded and ethereal, using not only the masks from riverdream... but also those of Harvey Lackawanna, Anima, Lion, Fox, Spirit of the Voice in the River, and Antelope. Percussion and mask sounds swirled through the space from the four speakers. The customary waking sense of time departed during Spirit Dreams, to be replace by a wonderful rhythm of alternating daydreams, hypnagogic sensations and deeper dreaming. The performance of Spirit Dreams lasted about an hour and a half, but might have continued for several more with the audience happily engaged.

Much of the power and impact of Lowrey's work comes from the combination of archetypal material (in the appearance of the masks, gestures, and the sounds of water, percussion, and voice) and the collective participation of the audience. The pieces drew the listeners into various modes of participation in a structurally strong and rightly intuitive flow of events. In that envelope of dreamtime, we listeners experienced a collective deep consciousness. This is music that transforms and heals.

1Joseph Rael, Being and Vibration, 1993.

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