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Memory Rings

An evocative theater work exploring humanity's relationship to ecology from the perspective of the world's oldest living tree.

The Latest Update

Erik Sanko release PUPPET BOY on Bandcamp

Posted on April 12, 2016 by Phantom Limb Company

Check out Erik Sanko’s new record!


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Los Angeles Premiere of Memory Rings!

Posted on April 11, 2016 by Phantom Limb Company

We had an amazing time in LA with Memory Rings, cannot wait to share the show in NYC as well.  Check out our review in the LA Times!


Meeting the Methuselah

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Phantom Limb Company

Phantom Limb went on an expedition to find the world’s oldest living tree and on the way recorded sounds of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine forest to use in the sound design of the piece.  Erik has been working with sounds of breaking branches and wood and threading them in as percussive elements in the show.  Recordings coming soon!


Memory Rings at OZ Arts Nashville Video Update

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Phantom Limb Company

At long last here is the work in progress video from our time at Oz Arts Nashville this past summer.  We worked with choreographer Ryan Heffington for the first time and found areas in the piece in need of serious sound design and new composition.  The wildly talented sound designer Darron West has joined our crew and will help us bring the piece to the next level at MASS MoCA at the end of April.  Stay tuned for updates and string recordings.

OZ Nashville, Ryan Heffington and Jeff Sugg- incredible choreographer and video joins our team!

Posted on July 8, 2014 by Phantom Limb Company

Phantom Limb is about to embark on a two week residency period in Nashville at an exciting new performing arts venue: OZ http://www.oznashville.com/

Our world premiere will be at OZ next June- the season has such luminaries as Laurie Anderson and Trisha Brown to name a few, we are in good company!  

We travel to OZ with 4 dancers, 2 puppeteers- they will provide 2 local puppeteers, a video designer – the very talented Jeff Sugg, Tommy Bertelson- a filmmaker to document and catalogue the work and boxes filled with puppets and masks. Additionally, Ryan Heffington is an incredible choreographic voice that we will have the good fortune of working with at OZ.  You may have seen his latest- along with 53 million viewers on youtube- the outstanding choreography for Sia’s Chandelier.  If not, check it out here.  

We are thrilled to be recipients of New Music USA and look forward to keeping updates rolling in here so that you can track the progress of this work.  


MEMORY RINGS is a multi-disciplinary theatrical presentation that grapples with nearly 5,000 years of human and environmental change from the perspective of the Methuselah tree, the world’s oldest known living tree. Using original music, innovative puppetry, choreography, sculptural set design and video, Phantom Limb will examine humanity’s relationship to ecology and, in particular, to forests since the tree’s germination 4,845 years ago.

This live theatrical performance, which will tour nationally in 2015-16, features an ensemble of actor/dancer/puppeteers performing to an evocative and complex musical score by composer Erik Sanko. Atraditional nuclear family is at dinner, one that continues, repeats and evolves over 5,000 years as they become increasingly storm tossed. Interwoven within these vignettes are scenes and images drawn from mythology and fairy tales in which the forest is a key character (including the epic story of Gigamesh). Each examines the tipping point of the forest in our collective consciousness—from a place of enchantment and mystery to a place that is finite and measured as a resource. If the forest and its mythological creatures are a mirror for our innermost conflicts, desires or fears what are they reflecting back at us now?

The work of Phantom Limb defies categorization, harnessing theatrical elements (puppets, scenic design, choreography, video and music) to spellbinding and original effect, embodying a spirit of experimentation and inquiry. With MEMORY RINGS, Phantom Limb endeavours to shed a new poetic light on the topic of climate change, transporting the viewer to a new level of emotional understanding, rather than through didactic statistics. Taking a cue from Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot’s Imagist Movement, we tell this story through impressionistic scenarios that will afford each audience member a unique experience. MEMORY RINGS is the second installation of a trilogy that began with 69 S., about which the Boston Globe wrote, “…over the course of 65 minutes (not a one of which is wasted), this entrancing multimedia work creates a portrait of humanity llocked in eternal struggle with nature’s brute force – while reminding us that any victory over nature is at best temporary”.

Throughout MEMORY RINGS composer Erik Sanko will use music to illustrate the tactile world of the forest.The woods will have its own music vocabulary culled from field recordings of Bristlecone Pines and other indigenous flora and fauna of the Methuselah tree’s White Mountains. Working with former Kronos Quartet cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, Sanko will weave these sounds into an acoustic tapestry that accompanies the forest sequences. The nuclear family sequences will have their own recurring theme, a song by Sanko called “Blow Wind Blow” which invokes nature’s instrument (wind) to erase one’s memory. The song’s melody will be laced throughout the completed work and becomes more discordant as humanity grows farther and farther away from it’s verdant habitat. Eventually the sounds of axes chopping wood provide the laborious backbeat to this arboreal funeral. In a final scene, the song ‘Trees’ ( after the poem by Joyce Kilmer) is sunglamentfully by a diamond encrusted skeleton, bemoaning this casualty of man’s folly.

Project Media

Memory Rings work-in-progress sample
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This in-progress sample features rehearsal footage of our first workshop in October 2013 at the Robert Rauschenberg residency. With a mix of professional and volunteer performers, we identified elements of narrative structure and sound palette that will serve as the foundation for MEMORY RINGS.
There are three pieces of music here. First is an interpretation of the song “Blow Wind, Blow” with the sound of axes chopping wood. Next, the actual song and last is the music to accompany the forest sequences with the sound of trees drinking water.

69 Degrees South Pieces
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Here is a collection of some of the major themes from our piece 69˚ S. performed by the Kronos Quartet. Although the specific application of sound treatments will vary in MEMORY RINGS, these will give you a sense of how music treatments function in the context of the show. The first one alludes to fractured communication as the strings play the the word “Who” very slowly in morse code. The final section was written to sound as if backwards as it represents the sense of trying to remember something which then becomes reconstituted.

Start and End Dates



New York, New York

5 updates
Last update on April 12, 2016

Project Created By

New York, New York
Phantom Limb Company, New York City-based, is known for its work with marionette-puppetry and focus on collaborative, multi-media theatrical production and design. Co-founded in 2007 by installation artist, painter and set designer Jessica Grindstaff and composer and puppet maker Erik Sanko, Phantom Limb has been lauded for its unconventional approach to this venerable format. Phantom Limb includes a…

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Brooklyn, New York
Princeton, New Jersey
New York, New York
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2 responses to “Memory Rings”

  1. Anne McCrady says:

    What a wonderfully evocative idea for a project! Kudos!

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