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A Bookmobile for Dreamers

As a bookmobile makes its rounds, we enter a series of books and are carried away by leaps, associations and meanderings of the imagination


A Bookmobile for Dreamers is a collaboration between composer/thereminist Elizabeth Brown and visual artist Lothar Osterburg. The work combines live theremin, recorded soundscape, and video into a meditation on books, reading, libraries, and culture.

Inspired by the joy of browsing, A Bookmobile for Dreamers celebrates the imagination as triggered by the printed word. As a bookmobile makes its rounds, we enter a series of books – and are carried away with the leaps, associations and meanderings of the imagination in all its unpredictability. Designed to be as portable as a bookmobile, A Bookmobile for Dreamers can be presented anywhere there is a blank wall and an electrical outlet. Running time is approximately 40 minutes. At the conclusion of most performances, following Q&A, audience members are invited onstage to try the theremin.

Brown and Osterburg, who have been collaborating since 2003, have drawn on their diverse talents to create this piece. Osterburg, who is a sculptor, photographer, printmaker and filmmaker, has created a dreamlike model world using real time video, stop motion animation and special effects. Brown’s theremin sings over an electronic soundscape which she built from transformed field recordings of everyday sounds. Brown uses the theremin’s spatial playing technique to interact with the virtual world of the video projection.

Osterburg builds his small models by hand from memory, from readily available materials—vegetables, toothpicks, electronic debris—often rescued from dumpsters and piles of refuse on city streets. Stripped of superfluous detail and appearing in unlikely settings, the scenes draw the viewer into a world suspended between the real and the imaginary. Brown, who collects sounds the way Osterburg collects sculptural materials, hears music everywhere. A very moldy piano, mating frogs deep in the Grand Canyon, Aunt Irma’s grandfather clock at midnight, dropped silverware, a friend’s washing machine, rushing water in the drains of Lucca, Italy during a rainstorm, squeaking doors and groaning pipes, spinning tops, jawharps, footsteps in cinders, chickens . . . . all these sounds coexist as books dissolve, refold themselves, and march along city streets, and the theremin plays on.

Brown and Osterburg created much of A Bookmobile for Dreamers during a collaborative artist residency at the Bogliasco Foundation’s Liguria Study Center in Italy. On August 29, 2013, Bogliasco partnered with Lincoln Center to present A Bookmobile for Dreamers in the Rubenstein Atrium as part of Target Free Thursdays, for a very large and enthusiastic audience. Since the Electronic Music Foundation presented the premiere at Greenwich House Music School in April, 2012, A Bookmobile for Dreamers has also been performed in Buch und Kunst, an antiquarian bookstore in Braunschweig, Germany; at Kutztown Univrsity in Kutztown, PA; at the Hartt School of Music, at Bard College, and in Lesley Heller Workspace on the lower east side of NYC.

Project Media


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This short trailer shows several excerpts from A Bookmobile for Dreamers as it appears in performance.

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Features: Elizabeth Brown

In this excerpt from A Bookmobile for Dreamers, Elizabeth Brown’s theremin multiplies into a canon for multiple theremins, accompanied by a very moldy piano. In performance, Brown walks out of herself, carrying a theremin, and each new voice appears in the video projection, until an ensemble of virtual Browns accompanies her playing live. This takes place in Osterburg’s hand-built library.

Start and End Dates



Brooklyn, New York

Project Created By

Red Hook, New York
Elizabeth Brown combines a composing career with a diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, and theremin in a wide variety of musical circles. Her music has been heard in Japan, Russia, Colombia, Australia, South Africa and Vietnam as well as across the US and Europe. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Juilliard graduate, she has received…

In Collaboration With

Visual Artist
Brooklyn, New York


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