Skip to content

Psychic Driving

psychic driving card

March 10 & 11: Premiere showing of excerpts of Psychic Driving at HERE’s Culturemart Series!!

From HERE:   “Psychic Driving surrounds the audience with a hallucinatory landscape of audio surveillance, hospital sonifications, and clandestine broadcasts, inspired by the CIA brainwashing experiments of the 1950s, in which subjects were force-fed LSD then played looped audiotapes. Four performers chatter, sing, and nosedive from desks in an intricate physical and musical score that seamlessly combines musical samples with live performers. Brooke’s trademark musical mash-ups have been called “operatic in scope, unfolding in layers that constantly reveal new meanings” (Culturebot) and “the most exciting and innovative musical theater I’ve seen in years” (Meredith Monk).


“Psychic driving” was an experiment of the 1960s, where a repeated recorded message, along with psychedelic drugs, would reprogram a patient therapeutically. Quickly appropriated by the CIA, the technique’s dubious results proved more useful for brainwashing. Repeated audio stimuli intrigued other experimenters in the 1960s. Burroughs looped audio tape as a kind of unconscious, automatic writing, the bleeps and buzzes of hospital sonification were pioneered, and audio surveillance began its heyday. So did musical minimalism.

Psychic Driving free-associates between sounds of surveillance, monitoring, and radio transmission. Language practice tapes, number stations, wireless broadcasts, and medical sonification are mixed in a dense sound bed of foley, speaking, and singing. These sounds  weave into complex loops, canons, and fugal structures, out of which singing emerges. The four performers surround the audience in booths reminiscent of telemarketing, mechanical fortune-tellers, radio broadcasts, and Spalding Gray’s classic monologue table. With minimal props, the choreography, developed in lock-step with the sounds, will draw attention to the intricate play between light and sound—and the multiple perspectives, from womb-like envelopment to paranoia, that surround-sound evokes. Sometimes playing out in near-darkness, the piece will explore how, in parsing dense message streams, one doesn’t always know where to look or listen.