Published in

Dream Interpretation: Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd Tell War Stories

The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been well-documented.  But composer Vijay Iyer and poet Mike Ladd, along with Iraq war vet Maurice Decaul, are telling war stories in a new way, using the images and scenes culled from their dreams.

"Holding It Down" is the third major collaboration between Iyer and Ladd. It's a commission from Harlem Stage, and very much a work-in-progress.

The score is stylistically similar to previous collaborations by the pair: ethereal vocals, piano, laptop, cello and percussion. "It has that same kaleidoscopic quality of dreams," Iyer said. "Even a single dream can take you through a whole range of emotions."  

Maurice Decaul, a 29-year-old veteran, served in Iraq in 2003. Seven years later, his dreams are still littered with fragmented scenes from the country: the pop and crackle of artillery fire, an Iraqi woman's green dress, the anxiety of night patrols in Nasiriyah.

Ladd is a civilian, but a military buff. Growing up, he said he "mythologized" his father, a decorated World War II veteran who died just after his first birthday. He developed a "perverse obsession" with war in an effort to connect with his father, and said the project is about "me as a civilian deconstructing my fantasy of war in the face of these veterans reconstructing the reality of their lives."

Ladd and Iyer want more young veterans -- especially women -- to contribute accounts of their dreams.  Here's what they say:

"We envision developing a 'dream database,' in which veterans can contribute, share and communicate through these dream narratives. We also envision veterans telling some of these stories on stage in a creative dialogue with civilian artists.

At this juncture we would love to hear all submissions available describing any sorts of dreams that veterans celebrate or endure. They can be riveting or boring, beautiful or horrible. They can be submitted anonymously or with the intention of performing them personally. Anything goes."

You can contribute your stories, here.