Experiments in Intimacy and Immersion
As writer and director, Rik Lander’s aim with The Memory Dealer was to create a dramatic experience where audience members felt they had really become part of another world and another set of lives. The story was told through multiple media: an app that delivered narration and musical score via headphones, interactive installations, diegetic audio, prop flyers and newspapers, and encounters with actors. Rather than simply view the unfolding story, audience members were immersed in it and expected to become actor and author. Lander offers an insider’s, auto-ethnographic perspective on the realization of this pervasive drama. He uses audience feedback to explore whether he succeeded in making this change to their role without arousing their self-consciousness. He also examines whether plot and characters could be as complex as in a movie or conventional play and which of the multiple forms of engagement served to immerse and which to alienate the audience?
The cultural politics of pervasive drama: aural narrative, digital media and re-compositions of urban space
This article argues that pervasive drama has the capacity to illuminate the cultural politics of urban space, by highlighting microsociological power relations that shape everyday movement. It suggests that the medium does this in two ways: firstly, through its use of “pervasive sound narratives” that actively defamiliarize urban space and, secondly, through the auditory technologies that disseminate this narrative, which draw attention to everyday engagements with mobile media that are ordinarily beneath our notice. These arguments respond to Anderson’s call for further research into the “productive listening potentials” of aural narrative (Anderson 2012), by exploring specific ways that pervasive drama can foster more meaningful and politically-engaged experiences of place. Drawing on The Memory Dealer as a case-study, narrative extracts and focus group findings from the drama are used to illustrate pervasive drama’s specific, politicised “listening potentials”.
Immersion and proximity: music, sound, and subjectivity in The Memory Dealer
Sarah Hibberd, Nanette Nielsen
With a focus on narrative film music techniques and sonic constructions of subjectivity, this article explores the soundtrack of The Memory Dealer. We account for whether and how immersion is achieved and discuss the ways in which TMD brings novelty to the area of sound studies, not least through its relevance for phenomenology. Analyzing participants’ responses, we argue that immersion in TMD is less dependent on a narrative understanding of the soundtrack and more reliant on a particular kind of subjective immersion that is deepened and maintained through sound. We show how, in order to achieve this immersion, the soundtrack needs to support a balance between players’ self-reflection and their self-consciousness: whereas the former can deepen engagement, the latter can be distracting and pull the player out of the experience. The various levels of subjectivity and sonic interaction in TMD reveal new avenues for immersion through sound in pervasive drama.
Preludium: The Memory Dealer
Nanette Nielsen, Elizabeth Evans
In this Preludium we clarify the history and scope of The Memory Dealer (TMD), and the methods, ideas, and incentives behind the research presented in the current volume. As a new experimental, “pervasive” drama that exploits digital and personal technologies to create fictional narratives that are then layered onto real world spaces, TMD introduces new possibilities both for storytelling and for the positioning of the audience. As the articles in this volume bear witness to, TMD can be thought of as a new kind of “sound narrative”; what remains the most direct experience of the drama is undoubtedly the soundtrack. As a novel soundworld prompting new responses – responses that can be explored and analyzed – TMD is a rare form of documentation that offers fertile ground for exploration.
“It’s probably just me”: The Literacies of Pervasive Sound Narratives
This article explores how The Memory Dealer reveals the multiple literacies at stake in pervasive, transmedia, multimodal drama that open up new relationships between player, text, technology and space. In contrast to much scholarship on digital and media literacy, which focuses on children, the focus here is on adults who are already well versed in a range of media-related literacies, including “new” forms such as videogames and digital media, but are simultaneously not “digital natives”. Three specific forms of literacy emerge: narrative, technological and geographical-logistical. When participants came across moments of difficulty with these literacies, they articulated this failure as a form of personal inadequacy. At the same time, key diegetic components such as music, setting and performance aided their re-learning of how to locate and understand TMD’s narrative.
Composing for the Memory Dealer: New Paradigms for the Immersive Soundtrack
The task of producing a score for new experiential types of media and transmedia presents a number of exciting possibilities for the composer. Indeed, the musical experience is a profoundly personal one; deeply held and ideologically informed expectations could risk limiting the role of music in exploratory new pervasive drama pieces to a pseudo-filmic Muzak. Just as the traditional modes of story-telling are rethought and exploded across a new and emergent diegetic plane, the role of music should likewise be radically rethought so as to rewrite its immersive potential.
Drawing upon my experience as composer for The Memory Dealer, this article will give critical insight into the collaborative process of both composing and realizing the soundtrack for new emergent, adaptive, and pervasive theatre works. It offers a discussion of my own creative processes and aesthetic concerns as well as an in-depth account of the technological and collaborative realities of this particular project.