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Earth Day at Barnegat

Saturday, April 18, 1998

Norman Lowrey's riverdream through us. Presented by the Ocean County Library, Barnegat Branch in partnershp with The Composers Guild of New Jersey.

By Paul Somers

The shaman-guide in the loon mask slowly walked around the circle of ceremony celebrants. Bird cries emerged from him and echoed in the space. Not step by step but joint by joint - toes then ankle - the loon peered about the people and into the sky, his fingers and wrists moving in ritual deliberation. The sounds of waterfalls at Frost Valley, NY, of Delaware River rapids, and of Cape May surrounded the listeners.

The geographical magic combining locations was the result of Norman Lowrey's mixing of recordings he made at seven sites along the Delaware River, for the performance-piece is a celebration of that river. The loon mask was one of several he used in the course of his riverdream through us. The celebrants in his ceremony sat not on the banks of the Delaware, but in an open space cleared in the Barnegat Branch of the Ocean County Library on a Saturday afternoon.

Various mystic-mythic "guides," each played by Mr. Lowrey as he donned various masks and garments, led the listeners in activities including rock tapping (each of us was given two rocks) and listening sticks (we each received a dried branch about an inch in diameter through which sounds could be transmitted). The rocks proved to be favorites of the kids, who continued with that activity when the adults ha moved on. At one point we were all invited to blow soap-bubbles.

Lowrey's masks all contain sound elements within them. The bear head was a rattle activated by shaking the head. The others contained various flute sounds often with finger-holes at various places near the mouth.

The hour-long mix of taped and live sound was not hypnotic but within its own sonic world was activating and energizing. With the prefix "Dreaming" before each sectional title, the work's sequence is "Opening," "Flowing," "Riving," (i.e. cutting), "Bottoming," "Verging," "Weaving (river/stars)," and "Riverdreaming."

It was in the spirit of the performance's library setting that people came and went and that there was a mix of people, all of whom were open to trying this "different" experience.

For sale afterward was CD of a live performance including Pauline Oliveros and Tom Bickley. I, for one, was a purchaser and wrote this review under the immediate influence of the music.

(Reprinted with permission from the author, published in Classical New Jersey)

riverdream through us

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