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The Grand Scientific Musical Theatre

Jul 5, 2010

A couple of months ago, I threw a grand party at a modern art gallery near downtown Dallas to celebrate the release of my latest book. It wasn’t so much a book signing as it was an experiment in musical science and philosophy. Let me explain.

The book is entitled The Grand Scientific Musical Theatre, which anyone can download free as a PDF e-book on here. It is a 3D storybook based on a real myth-rock band from Austin named Distant Lights.

As the story goes, the band’s singer Gabe has a series of visions in which he is visited by neo-gothic characters who share with him various ancient truths that change his worldview. The visions reach a climax when he wakes up inside his own dream to bring what he learns to the world during a huge concert held on the evening of December 21, 2012. The twist to Gabe’s psychedelic journey is the way in which he uses music, technology and imagination as the catalyst for a sudden global awakening.

The idea for a theme party to illustrate this concept began to materialized as my wife and I sat around drinking a glass of wine at lunch. We wanted to invite everyone we knew and have Distant Lights play at the party. I thought it would be fun to explain the fictionalized story to the crowd using a 3D graphic projection, then surprise everyone by introducing the real Distant Lights band. I thought it might demonstrate how technology acts to blur reality and even inject mythology into society. But then, I thought, it would be even better to take it a step further.

I thought wouldn’t it be cool to recreate the scientific musical experiment from the story live. I could imagine a couple of the band members doing a musical science experiment showing how sound forms geometrical patterns by vibrating water or sand. I then imagined explaining how this could have been done thousands of years ago as the inspiration for written language, using this as an introduction to bring on a mythological poet. And, as if this wasn’t enough, I thought the finishing touch would be to recreate the tribal dance scene from the book with real dancers choreographed to one of the band’s songs.

By the end of the glass of wine, we had made the naive decision to do it. All of it!

The only problem (we thought) was where to do it – we needed lots of room. That’s when my wife suggested the modern art gallery and artist in residence facility ran by the University of Texas at Dallas. Well, I immediately decided to look into it and scheduled a meeting with the dean of the Arts & Humanities school. Over lunch, the dean agreed to let me have the event at the UT Dallas Centraltrak gallery for free in order to introduce more people to the gallery. The caveat was it just had to happen in six weeks.

On visiting the gallery the next week with the band, I was surprised to find that it had an art installation representing the inside of the human mind. And, it had a huge third eye mounted on the wall that extended out into the gallery while peering through the wall into the street outside. There were also pink plastic thingys hanging from the ceiling that looked like neural material. It was a perfect complement for the book’s theme of memories, dreams and visions. How could this be a coincidence?

When the big night came, everything was ready. We had rented two separate sound and light systems, complete with two video projectors. The dance group, named The Effect, worked out last minute details with the band. Their premier performance would be the first time they had danced with the band. Then the poet arrived as the various computers and music visualization device were being coupled with the projectors and sound systems. There was even a fog machine to create a mythical quality. The presentation and music experiment would be held inside the gallery while the food, wine, music and dance would occur outside in an industrial cage. This entire thing was held together by a script I had written, but no one had rehearsed.

As people began to arrive, their perplexed expressions were recorded by a swarm cam and strategically placed satellite cameras. The entire event was to be recorded as a multi-camera shoot and later compiled into a mini-documentary. As the crowd took their seats, they had no idea what was about to happen, but neither did we.

So, if you’re curious to find out how one live event could blend art, music, science, poetry, dance and philosophy into a single performance – all while trying to explain the premise of a psychedelic 3D virtual reality book, check it out here. You’ll find plenty of pictures, music and documentary videos from this amazing night.

And don’t forget the free e-book while you’re there. Feel free to send it to someone who needs a little light reading (or perhaps enlightened reading).

Richard Merrick

Richard Merrick was the founder and CEO of Postfuture, a pioneering rich-media communications provider for companies like Best Buy and Microsoft. Under his leadership, the company grew from a tiny start-up in 1999 into the top digital communications company of 2004 and 4th fastest growing technology company in Texas. Prior to this, he was the technology founder and elected CEO of 7th Level, a global CD-ROM game publisher and Internet technology company known for such award-winning titles as TuneLand Starring Howie Mandel and Monty Python's The Quest for the Holy Grail. Merrick's work spans many areas of digital media, including search engines, graphics operating systems, multi-media authoring applications, interactive games, voice-response Web agents and dynamically personalized Internet communications. Throughout his career he has been invited to speak around the world on the future of digital media and cited as an expert in leading publications. He is an improvisational pianist & composer, archetypal artist and independent researcher into the physics, history and social ramifications of harmonic science. He received his B.A. (magna cum laude) and M.S.C.S. degrees from the University of Texas at Dallas.

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