The Stuff of Dreams
by Bonnie Langston, The Daily Freeman
October 13, 2000
An exhibit of masks at Deep Listening Space in Kingston helps usher in the fifth annual Dream Festival.
Norman Lowrey and 'Buddha BigEars'
Like dreams,masks exhibited at the Deep Listening Space in Kingston's Rondout area can reveal more than then obscure. And the revelation is particularly timely during the fifth annual Dream Festival taking place in Kingston and environs.
Among activities scheduled through the month is a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday (October 14) for "Dreaming in Parallel," an exhibit of masks by Norman Lowrey of New Jersey and Victoria Lashley of Upper Red Hook, at Deep Listening Space, 75 Broadway, Kingston. Paintings by Lashley and an installation called "La-La Land" by Seana Biondolillo are also part of the exhibit.
Then, at 8 p.m. a "singing masks" performance by Lowrey, "In Parallel: Dreaming into Alternate Universes," is slated. The audience is invited to participate in this performance, which includes surround soundscape, narration and movement.
"It is a ceremonial experience set up to take people into different dimensions, different realms, different ways of experiencing sound and movement," Lowrey said. "Masks are the trigger. It's nonlinear, nonrational. It's like having a dream."
Most of Lowrey's masks on display are carved basswood, but a few earlier works are made of ceramics. Various sound-making devices are installed in them, and at least one has a listening device.
Lashley's masks are created from gourds, other natural materials and hardware items.
>Both Lashley and Lowrey donned their own masks in the recent "Lunar Opera," staged outside Lincoln Center in New York City in August and from which elements were showcased a month earlier in Kingston. Ione, a Kingston artist and founder of the Dream Festival, was also a collaborator of "The Lunar Opera," which honored Kingston composer and musician Pauline Oliveros.
The Dream Festival is sponsored by the city of Kingston and the Pauline Oliveros Foundation.
Lowrey met Oliveros about 30 years ago in San Diego when both were teaching college music courses there. Years later, when Lowrey attended various Deep Listening workshops conducted by Oliveros, she learned of his masks, which had been lying dormant for some time.
"Pauline was instrumental in bringing my masks out of the attic," Lowrey said. "She encouraged me to get them out and start doing things with them."
Lowrey began making masks by accident. About 20 years ago he collaborated with a ceramic sculptor in an installation at Drew University in New Jersey where Lowrey is professor of music. At the installation, he used the artist's ceramic materials to explore sound-making in a performance piece. Eventually that led to Lowrey's making of clay vessel flutes in mostly flower-petal and shell forms, some quite large.
"I realized, in fact, when I was playing one that it was covering my whole face," he said. "I said, 'Wow, this is a mask.' It produced a familiar yet archaic sensation with the deep past. It's almost like the experience of what (Swiss psychologist Carl) Jung described as an archetype, but an archetype in sound."
Gradually Lowrey moved from private showings to collaborative efforts, including ceremonial performances, which is his current direction. His "singing masks" have appeared at places as diverse as The Knitting Factory in New York City, Plan B in Santa Fe, and a pictograph cave of the Crow Indians in Billings, Mont.
Lowrey's performance at Deep Listening Space will include surround soundscapes, a layering of recordings mostly from nature, including the Delaware River, frogs from New Mexico, crickets, cicadas and katydids from Lowrey's back yard, and deep organ reverberations from a sound installation at 46th and Broadway in New York City.
Audience members also will be invited to participate in the event by using listening techniques developed by Oliveros and explained in simple terms by Lowrey.
The combined effect of all these sensations - including ideas emanating from the realm of contemporary theoretical physics, Lowrey said - allows for the possibility of experiencing alternate universes.
"It's an appropriate activity for a dream festival," he said.