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Down The Rabbit Hole - A Musical Journey Based on Alice in Wonderland

Part epic chant, part improvisational dance, Down The Rabbit Hole is a modern day rendition of Lewis Carroll's classic, Alice in Wonderland. Each episode features original music and dance that unfolds in the forests and towns of Northern California. Created by artist Chantmagick, this music fantasy is a visual concept album that challenges the viewer to be still and be fluid at the same time.

  • Marilyn McNeal
  • Project Type:
    Experimental, Music Video, Web / New Media
  • Runtime:
    25 minutes 17 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 10, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    15 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    iPhone 7
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Baltimore Next Media Web Festival
    Baltimore, MD
    United States
    Selected - Best Documentary / Talk Show / Variety / Experimental Web Series
Director Biography - Marilyn McNeal

Director, composer, and producer, Marilyn McNeal has been creating short audio and video documentaries, original soundtracks and songs for over 20 years. In 1998, Marilyn began documenting street level protests and community gatherings in Manhattan and Brooklyn as a Media Studies graduate student at the New School for Social Research. Using a mini disc recorder and a webcam attached to her laptop, Marilyn applied her experience as a community health outreach worker to gather and curate stories of everyday people on the street. McNeal was an early web experimenter, leveraging the then nascent technologies of web audio and video to share her work online. Some of the work has been archived by the Internet Archive.

A student of violin at age five and of Afro Brazilian dance in her twenties, McNeal began to incorporate her love of music and movement into her art practice in her thirties. She wrote and recorded Norristown Forest, an eight song CD in 2000 and has written, recorded and released new material in 2002, 2005, 2010 and every other year since. Most of the material prior to 2017 is streamable on SoundCloud while the early 2000 work has been archived by the Internet Archive.

In 2005, McNeal joined Million Fishes Arts Collective as a resident artist. She lived, worked and performed at Million Fishes until its close in 2012. Her experience of living with filmmakers, circus performers, and theater professionals deepened her interest in visual storytelling.

In 2006, McNeal began Imaginopedia, a non-linear web project that mimicked the look and functioning of Wikipedia, the volunteer edited free online encyclopedia. Imaginopedia encouraged users to collaboratively create an alternative set of facts based on the imagination. The project lasted a year before succumbing to a slew of hacking attacks. The concept was resurrected in 2016 as blacknoise.org, another web-based project that allowed Marilyn to share her audio, video and illustration ideas through an experience directed by the user.

In summer 2011, Marilyn began making her own folk instruments from cardboard, string, wire and tin cans. The impetus was the discovery of 19th century American roots music and the fact that music makers from that era often improvised with whatever was on hand. McNeal made several instruments and experimented with looping them. She released both "Summer 2011 Raw" and "Loop Magick" on SoundCloud, two albums that exemplify what happens when the analog and the digital intersect. In October 2011, McNeal performed at the Y2K+1 Loopfest, an annual international live looping festival with 50 artists from 10 countries performing in Santa Cruz.

In July 2012, McNeal was selected to be one of four artists taking part in Signal Fire’s Outpost residency in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Mountains. She spent seven days creating and recording original acoustic instruments in a 12x12 canvas wall tent. A few months later in October 2012, she participated in the Music For People & Thingamajigs Festival, an annual event featuring experimental and traditional musicians who incorporate made/found instruments and alternate tuning systems in their work. Two months after the festival, McNeal released "2012 Folk Jams" on the SoundCloud platform. Her shift from live looping to vocal harmonizing is apparent on these tracks.

In the Spring of 2013, the Kitchen Sisters organized “The Making Of”, a gathering of over one hundred Bay Area makers to present their work, process and expertise at SFMOMA. McNeal introduced event goers to the diddley bow, a one string instrument that was popular in the American south during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She explained how she made hers and played the instrument for her audience.

McNeal released "The Book of Kick Ass" on the SoundCloud platform, and later that summer attended the Festival of American Fiddletunes on a full scholarship. Fiddletunes is a week-long, total-immersion fiddle-centric experience that provides music students with the opportunity to live, learn, and jam with masters and advanced players of regional fiddling traditions.

In 2014, Marilyn joined Lobot Arts Collective as a resident member. She began making short music videos using just an iPad and the iOS versions of Garageband and iMovie. She released four albums on SoundCloud. "Signal Flow" and "animal.vegetable" offering moody pop portraits of social confusion while "Anthem of Here" and "Dark Horse in Low Light" provide glimpses into her continued study of 19th century rural folk music.

The same year, McNeal organized an Indiegogo campaign to travel to Russia where she taught workshops about the history and construction of the diddley bow in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Izhevsk and Yekaterinburg. Workshops took place in a school, two artist collectives, a music hall and a summer camp with participants ranging in age from 5 to 65.

In 2015, McNeal produced three more visual concept albums: "Black Unicorn", "Jazz Apples", and "Collective Understanding." She departed from her earthy fiddle and pop melodies to return to social commentary that incorporated street interview, field recordings, and sequencer driven electronica.

In 2016, Marilyn released "Spacetime", a six track odyssey that combines otherworldly incantations with homemade string instruments. Called “folktronic blues” by Marc Weidenbaum of disquiet, this project marked the first time she worked with audio engineer Rupert Clervaux, who mixed and mastered the tracks.

In the spring of 2017, McNeal began her latest multimedia project, Chantmagick. Musically described as the Carter Family meets Kate Bush, Chantmagick combines original soundtracks with improvisational movement and layered video of Northern California open space. Song lyrics focus on the peacefulness and power that come from losing self in nature. Often called visual sound prayers, the short video stories allow Marilyn to combine her optimism about relationships with nature with her love of American roots music. "A Dance with Trees" was released in November 2018.

In January 2019, McNeal began Down The Rabbit Hole, a weekly web series based on Lewis Carroll’s classic tale, Alice in Wonderland. Inspired by Yellow Submarine and several concept albums of the 70’s and early 80’s music videos, McNeal fuses improvisational movement with a post-modern blues soundtrack and a hyper-real approach to visualizing the natural world.

McNeal shares her work primarily through her YouTube channel and her website, but also distributes content through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. In August 2018, McNeal began Just Some Thoughts, a podcast that features her reflections on the creative process. She has also interviewed several artists on her YouTube channel.

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Director Statement

This year, I am re-telling the story of Alice in Wonderland through a music and dance web series that unfolds in the woods of Northern California. I chose Alice in Wonderland because Alice's experiences seems like the perfect metaphor for life in the technologically developed world of the early 21st century. While we are unlikely to encounter a bottle labeled DRINK ME or a cake that says EAT ME, our phones and digital devices may have the similar effect of blurring the lines between what is real and what is a dream.