Alice’s Dreamscape is an audiovisual work that encapsulates the dreamlike and ethereal essence of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The project features a musical composition recorded by musicians remotely, as well as a corresponding music video that consists of snippets of scenes from the novel. Six student artists each performed unique roles in the creation of the video, contributing their musical performance skills, audio mixing and video editing techniques, cinematography, and acting expertise.
I decided to create an entry for the Wonderland Awards because Alice in Wonderland was one of my favorite movies growing up, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is still one of my most loved novels. I was immediately drawn to the Wonderland Awards, hoping to use the musical knowledge I have gained through my studies to honor the author of one of my most defining childhood memories. I gathered inspiration for the project by re-reading the book and exploring the Cassady collection at the USC Special Collections Library. Some of the texts and artifacts I looked at included:
- The Annotated Alice: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass – intro and notes by Martin Gardner
- Autographed letter signed C.L Dodgson : Oxford, to Mrs. Alice Mallam, 1897 March 4
- Lewis Carroll: An Illustrated Biography (1977) by Derek Hudson
- Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1995) by Morton N. Cohen
- Callooh! Callay: a brillig look at USC Libraries Wonderland Award
The purpose of this creation was to convey the story of Alice’s journey through the lens of a dream. In a letter to Tom Taylor, an editor of Punch magazine, C.L. Dodgson (A.K.A Lewis Carroll) explains, “The whole thing is a dream, but that I don’t want revealed till the end.” In the novel, it is unclear if Alice falls asleep before her ‘adventures’ in Wonderland commence, but in the end Alice wakes up and realizes that her experience was nothing but “a curious dream!”. This sentiment allowed me to begin the musical composition progress with a vision in mind: Alice’s adventures through the sleep cycle.
The form of the 3-minute composition mimics the stages of sleep. As the piece moves through the stages and Alice falls into a deeper and deeper slumber, the music seems to venture farther from reality. This was intended to coincide with Alice venturing into Wonderland. The climax of the piece is at 1:43, where Alice enters the REM stage of the sleep cycle, and this is the moment where she is fully immersed in the chaotic world of Wonderland.
The act of sleep is conveyed in the music through various techniques, including: quotation of a fragment from Brahms’ Lullaby as a motive throughout the piece, deviation from traditional harmonic structures and the use of rapid and non-standard harmonic rhythm as Alice moves toward the REM cycle (representing moving further from reality), and the gradual progression toward the dreamlike whole-tone scale as the melodic framework of the piece.
The composition was written for violin, cello, and piano. Upon its completion, I contacted three student musicians and asked if they would be interested in recording the work remotely. I made a click track that they could use to time their recordings, and then they all sent their audio files in return. I compiled these using a digital audio workspace and was able to make adjustments in timing, dynamics, pitch, equalization, and reverb to make the recording sound cohesive, as if it was recorded live.
Artist StatementThe final musical product emulates the sleep cycle, and as Alice moves throughout this sleep cycle she becomes more embedded into the chaotic beauty of Wonderland. The video was created to supplement the music and add to this effect. I came up with a plan for the music video, based on the progression of the musical composition, and chose snippets from the story to feature in the video. The scenes that were featured in the music video include Alice falling asleep at the tree, following the March Hare down the hole, eating and drinking the mysterious concoctions to shrink and grow, joining the Mad Hatter at the Mad Tea Party (without the other characters due to limited actors), and finally waking up.
A film student and I discussed artistic planning and film techniques that would communicate the intended effect and personality of the story through the video. We aimed to put our own twist on the story, rather than replicating other adaptations of the novel. Some of our artistic choices included recording in a rose garden to allude to the rose as a symbol within the story, using the March Hare as the character who pulls Alice into a dream state, mismatched and odd costume design and props, a quirky portrayal of the Mad Hatter, the use of a dark color palette for the Wonderland/dream scenes, and various other cinematic effects and filming techniques. Finally, the film student and I put the music and video clips together and he performed the video editing for final touches.
The final music video juxtaposes a Victorian seriousness with whimsical sense of humor, just as Lewis Carroll did in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the quest to artfully represent a beautifully written and iconic story, we honed in on the dream element to create Alice’s Dreamscape.