Ron Mason Gassaway is the composer and sound designer for The Yellow Wallpaper. He is a visual artist, composer and performer residing in Portland, OR. He has exhibited visual art at the ATA Gallery in San Francisco, the Portland Art Museum and the Taipei Biennial. He has composed music for nationally renowned filmmakers & theatre companies, in addition to co-founding the provocative group Party Killer, described as “colossal” by Julian Cope. He is also a co-founder of the dance music ensemble Muscle Beach, which contributed a recording to the Oregon Historical Society for their modern music anthology. Find out more at: www.ronmasongassaway.com.
Does this project relate to, expound on, complement, or conflict with any of your other work?
I prefer to work on highly conceptual projects which challenge the very foundation of my artistic abilities, particularly those which pertain to human psychology and the oppressive rituals of mindless conformity. The Yellow Wallpaper has been very complementary in these respects, allowing me to delve further into this subject matter with greater expressive sophistication while challenging my merits as a composer and sound-designer simultaneously. The broad emotional spectrum of the play required a variety of evolving atmospheres and melodies to comfortably co-exist with the rock-solid performances of this outstanding cast. Not exactly an easy task, but as I already stated, this is specifically the type of work I seek out. Exhilarating results often go hand in hand with a certain degree of exhaustion, which is a fair exchange, in my honest opinion.
How are the story and details of this play, set in 1892, relevant today?
The Yellow Wallpaper is as relevant today as ever. Regrettably, history is riddled with examples of marginalized people subjugated by the contemporary conceits of their time, such as the mid-century support for eugenics by medical professionals, the correlation between rising rates of suicide and over-prescribed anti-anxiety drugs in the early aughts, the cultural re-education of Aboriginal children (in Australia, Canada and the US) or the renewed challenges to reproductive rights we see today. The common denominator is a power elite so emboldened by their status that they presumptively speak and act for others who are deemed inferior or incongruent with the zeitgeist. The Yellow Wallpaper exemplifies the perils of this conceit.
What new projects do you have in the works now?
I’m presently putting the final touches on an new solo album I’ve been recording under the moniker “Masonique” which is tentatively scheduled for release on June 3rd, 2016. This album will include eight new recordings, produced with the symphonic pop sound I’ve been refining for several years, plus an extended single issued last year “Red, Blonde & Blue” which is currently available on iTunes (under Ron Mason Gassaway). Lyrically speaking I’ll be addressing a variety of pedestrian subjects, such as manifest destiny, white privilege, cyborg obsessed plutocrats and treacherous romance. Typical pop fair. Also on the near horizon is a music video I’ve directed for Portland based artist “Banimal” which will premiere later this spring.