EyeBeam RESIDENCY Application


a series of choral works EXPLORING the ways in which video games and virtual realities help individuals who have suffered trauma to reengage and reestablish trust in the “real” world through collaborative play.


Diagram of my project proposal for Eyebeam's residency.

Download Project Diagram Here (click)


Tell us how your research relates to the theme? What specific areas of the Open Call are you interested in?

My project is to research how collaborative play in video games (dungeon raids) can be an essential tool for trauma processing. At a young age, I was sexually assaulted and, as result, did not engage with life in a “normal” way — I lacked trust. By playing MMO video games, I developed new friendships and social responsibilities. Then, I translated virtual (VR) behavior to real life (RL). My research is about the theme of trust — both its loss and recovery through virtual and real collaboration.

Tell us what you want to do at Eyebeam for 9 - 12 months. Why is Eyebeam the right place?

At Eyebeam, I would research for and compose RAID 2.0 / MYRMIDON, a series of choral works about the ways in which video games/virtual realities help individuals process trauma through collaboration. Choral performance is, in itself, a mirror of the dungeon raid — in order to succeed, the group has to successfully follow a sequence of events by remaining attentive to one another. As a composer writing about technology, conducting this work among a community of technologists would be invaluable.

What are your goals for impact and social relevance in your practice?

I would like to extend my research to outreach by hosting community panels, where I present my findings, invite Brooklyn’s technologist/artist community to discuss their relationship to video games and their own work, and to present my choral works in progress. My broader goal would be to increase awareness about the sociological impact of video games—they are not just centers for entertainment, but can be essential tools for development, healing, and artistic expression.

What tools or support do you need to do your work?

I have all of the practical tools I need in order to compose:>>> a piano, a computer, a synthesizer, a harp, scoring applications, access to vocalists, experience in choral writing. What Eyebeam would provide for me is a community of support. Conducting research about how technology can help individuals who have suffered trauma should necessarily be done in a technological community. Eyebeam would enrichen my work by the mere fact of its individuals.


Alaina Ferris is a composer, poet, and music educator based in Brooklyn, New York. She writes music for New York’s downtown theater community, specializing in writing choral works. Her work is directly influenced by growing up playing classical piano and MMORPG video games. She has taught private voice and piano lessons for the past decade. Alaina’s work celebrates both the trained and untrained voice—she is interested in how choral singing provides a deeper sense of community through collaboration. Her compositions have been called both “haunting” and “arresting” by the New York Times.

Her book, “To Be Awake Means To Will,” a series of poems about video games and trauma processing, was a 2015 finalist for the National Poetry Series. Her chapbook, “While Listening,” a series of poems written while listening to a song on repeat, was published by The Operating System in 2016.

She has a B.A. in Music and English from The University of Denver and an M.F.A. in Poetry from NYU. She lives in Park Slope with her dog, Gypsy.



These are choral compositions written for Mac Wellman’s 'The Offending Gesture,’ which premiered at The Connelly Theater in January 2016 under the direction of Meghan Finn (Doomocracy).

The play is a true story about a Finnish dog named Jackie who learned how to do the Nazi Party salute during WWII. The gesture, upon being discovered, resulted in political tension between Germany and Finland. The choral pieces were darker counterpoints to the play's comedy.

"Mr. Wellman’s eclectic works are often hard to penetrate, but Meghan Finn, the director, has gotten the most out of this one, aided by haunting music composed by Alaina Ferris and delivered by a sort of Greek chorus of “mooncats,""
~New York Times

Let Us Contemplate This Suffering
for Five Voices, Rhodes Piano, Percussion

Song Notes: 
This piece starts off with a pitched drone of a war plane. It moves into an introduction by five voices, the rhodes piano (an instrument which was the direct result of WWII), and a drum kit (an instrument also with extensive relations to war). 

Misery My Maiden
for Five Voices

Song Notes:
The choir sang behind a Nazi and American hybrid flag on set, nearly in the dark. The piece was inspired by both polish composer Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and Raphael Schachter, a jewish composer who amassed a choir in secret in the Terezín concentration camp near Prague.

Let the Radius Vector Measure Time
for Five Voices, Harmonium, Autoharp, Synth, Rhodes Piano, Synthesizer, Drum Kit

Song Notes:
A the core of Wellman's comedy is a heartfelt and foreboding message: that thousands of people can die on the whim of an individual is not a phenomena of the past. In underscoring the final monologue, Let The Radius Vector Measure The Time, I drew from the French Horn solo in Tchaikovky’s 5th Symphony, which simultaneously evokes a sense of grief and hope.

You can hear Tchaikovsky's opening chord progression quoted at measure 17. The flute in this piece is played by Jackie, until measure 43 when Blondie says to Noble Wolf, "I better put down my writing thorn and stop thinking! Because you cannot get it out of your head. It is as it is." In that moment, Jackie puts down her flute and sings the melodic line, taking us to the end of the song and the end of the play.


This is a live performance of a choral piece titled, 'Why We Mourn,' written during a developmental residency at University Settlement in March 2017 for my collaboration with playwright William Burke, ‘The Keeners.’ Inspired by a trip to the Lower East Side's Tenement Museum, 'The Keeners' resurrects a group of female professional mourners from the late 1800s to wail and keen for inanimate and animated modern appliances (there is a toaster in the center of this room!). The all-female choir features both trained and untrained vocalists.


A screenshot of the video game Matt Parker designed for my poem, The Great Span — a poem about VR and suicide written after my close friend, Wiley Birkhofer, jumped off the Manhattan bridge. The poem is part of my manuscript, To Be Awake Means To Will, which was a finalist for The National Poetry Series in 2015.


When they first added islands to our world,
they were large chains of glacial ice named Velious.

My friend, Venen, and I spent hours waiting for content to load
so we could board the ship for passage.

When we arrived, everything was snow blue.
We paused & crafted new fur boots for ourselves,

sewing gutted linen string through tanned hide,
patching the inside with layers of fox fur.

We set to running & jumping from island to island.

We found a white dragon’s skull, 
the gateway through which we passed.

Its spine, a long and high bridge
connecting islands to mainland.

Our first instinct upon reaching the bridge’s summit,
so high you could only see clouds,

was to jump.

I haven’t ever met Venen, but knew he was,
like I, laughing at his screen for hours

as we watched our characters fall
through great depths,



Alaina Ferris
533 11th St. Apt 2
Brooklyn, NY 11215
720-272-8961 / alaina.ferris@gmail.com / alainaferris.com


New York University
New York, NY
M.F.A. Poetry
Adjunct Faculty Member & Starworks Writing Fellow

University of Denver
Denver, Colorado
B.A. in Music and English: Creative Writing
Magna Cum Laude, Honors Distinction in English, University Honors, Phi Beta Kappa.

Naropa University
Boulder, Colorado
Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Summer Writing Program

University of Bologna
Bologna, Italy
Study Abroad Through the University of Denver


Private Music Instructor
Maintain a roster of 30 private students in the Brooklyn area, teaching piano and voice.

Freelance Writer
York, NY
Culturebot. AOL/Huffington Post. Frontier Psychiatrist.

New York University
New Y
ork, NY
Adjunct Faculty Member, Creative Writing Department
Taught Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 Intro to Creative Writing.
CRWRI-UA.815 Section 001 and 014.

Starlight Foundation New York, NY
Starworks Fellow
Guided poetry writing sessions to child inpatients at Maimonides Hospital.

Tone Academy of Music
New York, NY
Piano and Voice Instructor
Taught music lessons at this traditional Suzuki music school.


William Burke's "The Keeners"
Composer, Music Director, Performer
Residency at University Settlement in Lower Manhattan, Forthcoming Residency at North American Cultural Laboratory.

Shakespeare's "Pericles"
Composer and Music Director
Barnard College

Joshua William Gelbs “The Black Crook”
Co-Composer and Co-Arranger, Music Director, Performer
Premiered at Abrons Arts Center, September 2016.
NY Times Critics' Pick.

Mac Wellmans “The Offending Gesture”
Composer & Music Director
Premiered at The Connelly Theater, January 2016.
NY Times & Time Out NY Critics' Pick.

Mia Rovengos “Nothins Gonna Change My World" 
Composer & Music Director
Premiered at The Waterfront Museum in Red Hook on July, 2016.

Scott Adkins “The Kioskers"
Composer, Music Director, &  Pamela
Premiered at St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Labapalooza! 2016

Eliza Bent's "Toilet Fire
Music Director, Pianist, Performer
Premiered at JACK NY and Abrons Arts Center
Time Out NY Critic's Pick

Temporary Distortion’s “My Voice Has An Echo In It”
A Six-Hour Durational Performance
Pianist, Vocalist, and Drummer
Premiered at The Watermill Center, Exit Festival (Maubeuge & Paris France), A Stereulux (Nantes, France)


While Listening
Chapbook of Poems written while listening to songs on repeat. Published by The Operating System.

Finalist for the National Poetry Series
For Manuscript "To Be Awake Means To Will," a series of poems about video games and trauma processing.

Norman Mailer Writers Center Fellow
Poetry Resident at Norman Mailer Writers Center
Brooklyn, NY.

Longmont Council of The Arts Mini-Grant
To write a book of poems and collaborate with composer Tyler Gilmore to create a song- cycle with brass quintet. This work evolved into an indie-chamber band called Small Dream Ada.
Longmont, CO.

Academic Achievement Award
Presented by the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver
Denver, CO.

Outstanding Musicianship
Greeley Jazz Festival
Greeley, CO.

Outstanding Musical Arrangement
Greeley Jazz Festival
Greeley, CO