RAID 2.0/MYRMIDON: >>

a series of STAGED 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.  

At iTS CORE:>> MYRMIDON IS A PROJECT ABOUT IMAGINATION, COLLABORATION, AND FRIENDSHIP.



MYRMIDON

SUMMARY:
RAID 2.0 / MYRMIDON is a series of staged, choral works about the ways in which video games and virtual realities help individuals who have suffered trauma to reengage and reestablish trust in the world. They are pieces about suffering, trauma, recovery and, ultimately, friendship — they highlight the complex relationships between the virtual and the "real". RAID 2.0 is going into the realm of video games; the word MYRMIDON represents finding empowerment through that act.

INSPIRATION:
At a young age, I was a victim of sexual assault. As a result of this, I became removed from society, unable to engage with the world in a “normal” way. When Everquest, the second MMORPG was released in 1999, I discovered a meaningful way to participate in life and grow through playing a game. I developed deep friendships, ones which I still have to this day. I developed social skills from my navigation of software. The skills required were variegated and many are directly related to the ones I use today as a poet/composer who specializes in collaborating in theater. There is a direct correlation between the collaborative skills needed to conduct a dungeon raid and the collaborative skills needed perform a chorale or play. In fact, 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. 

SOCIAL IMPACT:
I would like to extend my research for this project 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.

SAMPLE/VIDEO:

LYRICS:

~>>>
Oh, magic realm! You might be a better alternative~~:>>>>>

From a very, very young age I was taught my body was my money
Real things said to me: “girl, with that nice mouth, you can do a lot of great things in this world.” 
And so it added up. Life became a distant point. 
After years, my neat embroidery came undone.
My neat embroidery came undone. It came undone.

                                                   (violin…and then bass)
I sought refuge ‘neath the icy water.                                  

But I was stopped by my sister, by my sister by mother
By my daughter, by my mother, by my daughter, by my mother.

~>>>                    
No, you will not go. No, you will not go down quietly.

No, you will not go. No, you will not go down quietly. 
No, we will not go. No, we will not go down quietly. 
No, we will not go. No, we will not go. 

~>>>
And all my friends have saved me from unworthy lovers
All my friends have lifted me up when I thought I was not strong

When time left me weaponless, nothing to craft a bow for my arrow
They said, “Hey, sit down down, girl. We brought our tools.”

Hey-O, Hey-O, Hey-O. Da da dada     da dadada
Da da dada     da dada           Hu!

~>>>
Musical Interlude

~>>>
Lacy: “Oh, magic realm!”
Alaina: “Woah, I mean. Yeah, my geek-meter is going off over here. Can we talk about how video games and friends like, basically saved my life?”
Jessie: "Only if we talk about preferred class, armor…”
Lizzie: "And weapon choice.
Lacy: “Oh-Hoh!”
Alaina: “Easy. Leather. Longbow.”
Lacy: “Water mage: spell book in the main hand, orb in the off hand”

Jessie: “Mithril. Dual weilding scimitars. Bardic leaning. A songstress!”
Sarah: “Engineer priest. Bomb crafter.”
Lizzie: “I’ve always been a fan of the broadsword.”
*pause*


~>>>
The idea of rescue > your lover saves, you marry the prince. No. Let’s challenge this.
Great love does not just happen.
What happens will become great love.
What happens will become great love.

~>>>
No, we will not go. No, we will not go down quietly.
No, we will not go. No, we will not go. 
No, I will not go. No, you will not go down quietly. 
No, we will not go. No, we will not go. 

~>>>
We were thought to be sirens, but we were soldiers all along
Not weak, not soft >> myrmidons
Rage is an adequate response to the absurd
Kill the suitors, clean the swords

And all my friends have saved me from unworthy lovers
All my friends lifted me up when I thought I was not strong
When time left me weaponless, nothing to craft a bow for my arrow
They said, “Hey, sit down down, girl. We brought our tools.”

Hey-O, Hey-O, Hey-O. Da da dada     da dadada
Da da dada     da dada           Hu!


BIO

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.


ARTISTIC PRACTICE VIDEO


WORK SAMPLE 1: VIDEO GAME COLLABORATION

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.

GRETE SPAIGN (THE GREAT SPAN)>

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,

unharmed.


WORK SAMPLE 2: THE OFFENDING GESTURE

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

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

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.


WORK SAMPLE 3: THE BLACK CROOK

THE POWER OF LOVE
An arrangement of the 19th Century song, "The Power of Love," written for the first "America" musical, "The Black Crook." This piece was developed for Joshua William Gelb's production of The Black Crook at Abrons Arts Center in 2016 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the original production.


CHARLES AND SALLIE
Based on two original Black Crook themes — composer Thomas Baker's "Transformation Polka" (1866) and Giuseppe Operti's "I Said to My Love" (1871) — this new composition was a response to the The Black Crook's original finale — an gaudy tableau vivant featuring fireworks, spangle showers, scenic effects, and chorus girls dangling from the flies for a sustained thirteen minutes. For our finale, we instead strove for the opposite of grandeur — to pare things down simply to the human voice. Our show concluded with the story of how The Black Crook's playwright, Charles M. Barras, at the peak of his financial success, ended his life by leaping from a moving train.


WORK SAMPLE 4: THE KEENERS

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.


CURRICULUM VITAE

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

EDUCATION

2012-2014    
New York University
New York, NY
M.F.A. Poetry
Adjunct Faculty Member & Starworks Writing Fellow

2005-2009    
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.

2008-2009    
Naropa University
Boulder, Colorado
Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics Summer Writing Program

2006    
University of Bologna
Bologna, Italy
Study Abroad Through the University of Denver

WORK

2007-Current  
Private Music Instructor
Maintain a roster of 30 private students in the Brooklyn area, teaching piano and voice.

20011-Current
Freelance Writer
New
York, NY
Culturebot. AOL/Huffington Post. Frontier Psychiatrist.

2014    
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.

2013-2014    
Starlight Foundation New York, NY
Starworks Fellow
Guided poetry writing sessions to child inpatients at Maimonides Hospital.

2012-2013    
Tone Academy of Music
New York, NY
Piano and Voice Instructor
Taught music lessons at this traditional Suzuki music school.

MUSIC COMPOSITION & and PERFORMANCE

2017
William Burke's "The Keeners"
Composer, Music Director, Performer
Residency at University Settlement in Lower Manhattan, Forthcoming Residency at North American Cultural Laboratory.

2017
Shakespeare's "Pericles"
Composer and Music Director
Barnard College

2016    
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.

2015-2016    
Mac Wellmans “The Offending Gesture”
Composer & Music Director
Premiered at The Connelly Theater, January 2016.
NY Times & Time Out NY Critics' Pick.

2014-2016    
Mia Rovengos “Nothins Gonna Change My World" 
Composer & Music Director
Premiered at The Waterfront Museum in Red Hook on July, 2016.

2012-2016    
Scott Adkins “The Kioskers"
Composer, Music Director, &  Pamela
Premiered at St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Labapalooza! 2016

2015  
Eliza Bent's "Toilet Fire
Music Director, Pianist, Performer
Premiered at JACK NY and Abrons Arts Center
Time Out NY Critic's Pick

2013-2014    
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)

AWARDS AND PUBLICATIONS

2016  
While Listening
Chapbook of Poems written while listening to songs on repeat. Published by The Operating System.

2015    
Finalist for the National Poetry Series
For Manuscript "To Be Awake Means To Will," a series of poems about video games and trauma processing.

2013    
Norman Mailer Writers Center Fellow
Poetry Resident at Norman Mailer Writers Center
Brooklyn, NY.

2010    
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.

2009  
Academic Achievement Award
Presented by the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver
Denver, CO.

2009    
Outstanding Musicianship
Greeley Jazz Festival
Greeley, CO.

2008    
Outstanding Musical Arrangement
Greeley Jazz Festival
Greeley, CO