A Bookmobile for Dreamers

theremin, soundscape, and video (by Lothar Osterburg) (2011)

Canon (excerpt from A Bookmobile for Dreamers)


Elizabeth Brown, theremin

duration: 40′

program note

A New Music USA Commission
Elizabeth Brown, composer and thereminist
Lothar Osterburg, video and models

A Bookmobile for Dreamers combines live theremin, recorded soundscape, and video into a meditation on books, reading, libraries, and culture.

Inspired by the joy of browsing, A Bookmobile for Dreamers celebrates the imagination as triggered by the printed word. As a bookmobile makes its rounds, we enter a series of books – and are carried away with the leaps, associations and meanderings of the imagination in all its unpredictability. Designed to be as portable as a bookmobile, A Bookmobile for Dreamers can be presented anywhere there is a blank wall and an electrical outlet. Running time is approximately 40 minutes.

Brown and Osterburg, who have been collaborating since 2003, have drawn on their diverse talents to create this piece. Osterburg, who is a sculptor, photographer, printmaker and filmmaker, has created a dreamlike model world using real time video, stop motion animation and some special effects. Brown’s theremin sings over an electronic soundscape which she built from transformed field recordings of everyday sounds, and she uses the theremin’s spatial playing technique to interact with the virtual world of the video projection. Osterburg builds his small models by hand from memory, from readily available materials—vegetables, toothpicks, electronic debris—often rescued from dumpsters and piles of refuse on city streets. Stripped of superfluous detail and appearing in unlikely settings, the scenes draw the viewer into a world suspended between the real and the imaginary. Brown, who collects sounds the way Osterburg collects sculptural materials, hears music everywhere. A very moldy piano, mating frogs deep in the Grand Canyon, Aunt Irma’s grandfather clock at midnight, dropped silverware, a friend’s washing machine, rushing water in the drains of Lucca, Italy during a rainstorm, squeaking doors and groaning pipes, spinning tops, jawharps, footsteps in cinders, chickens . . . . all these sounds coexist as books dissolve, refold themselves, and march along city streets, and the theremin plays on.

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