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Short films, original compositions and innovative performances at New Music New College: Images

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On Saturday, Nov. 16, a select group of students, led by Professor of Art Kim Anderson and Professor of Digital Media and Music Mark Dancigers, presented their own collaborative compositions, performances and animations at New Music New College: Images. The students, including Margaux Albiez, Elizabeth Barrett, Parankush Bhardwaj, Gillian Boll, Freddie O’Brion, Harold Gonzales, Lev Gurt, Aniston Hoffman, Cindy Kim, Hunter Mundy, Hugh Roberts, Emma Solloway, Rose Schimmel, Rolando Tate and Claire Thomas, worked together closely over the course of the past few months. Some students produced original musical pieces. Others simultaneously developed the score and animations to craft six distinct short films. While most of the production for this event took place during Anderson and Dancigers’ fall tutorial, the Images concert has been long in the making. 

“I co-taught an animation course with Professor Buyssens in Spring 2019 entitled ‘Scopes and Tropes,’” Anderson said. “This class was based on the legacy of cinematic antecedents including animation and animation devices like the zoetrope, phenakistoscope, thaumatropes and even flipbooks. Although student animations were designed through analog methodologies, we wanted to demonstrate the historical range of these traditions and so we asked students to digitally document their work, in a way, addressing the conflation of the past and the present.”

After Anderson’s students translated their work from physical to digital objects, the group reached out to Danciger’s Electronic Music class to see if his students might be interested in scoring the animations. The short films that resulted from this collaborative effort between duos of art and music students, which were screened last May, were highly successful, prompting Anderson and Dancigers to ask a few of those same students to make new pieces in the same style within a Fall 2019 tutorial. Last semester, the animations were created before the score, but Anderson and Dancigers encouraged their current students to work on both pieces of the film simultaneously for this project, creating a more harmonious workflow and final piece.

“Music students took cues from the visual elements in the early stages of the animations so that the scores could be developed in tandem with the visual elements,” Anderson said. “Eventually they worked together to develop things like timing and atmosphere to better coordinate the experience that was envisioned for each piece. We met every other week to discuss software and editing techniques and to review the development of the work so students had opportunities for feedback and technical support.”

Finding the right match between artist and musician was vital when it came to achieving synchronized, smooth development. Third-year Lizzy Barrett and second-year Emma Solloway, who worked together on “KAMAKI,” were able to use their corresponding creative visions to their advantage throughout the production process. 

“The soundtrack and visuals mesh perfectly because they were created together,” Barret said. “I’m glad Emma Solloway and I had similar ideas while working on ‘KAMIKI,’ the end product turned out awesome. I also loved the whole collaborative process and being able to work with people who had similar interests to mine. Emma and I were on the same wavelength the entire time which made the collaboration process so much easier and much more fun.”

Although Barrett and Solloway enjoyed the time they spent working on short films for Images, the process did not come without its challenges. Time management, which almost every student involved in the show cited as a struggle during the pre-show Artist Conversation, posed major difficulties along the way.

“All of the animation students, myself included, had to hand-draw each and every frame in our animations (around 100 for my first and over 200 for my second animation), as well as color everything individually,” Barrett said. “Some of us painted backgrounds—I had two—and I even went in with some color correction overlays and video editing effects. I worked with music students to score the music and it was a lot of back-and-forth trying to figure out how to get everything to fit. It was a lot of work to put together.”

However, all the hard work put in by both students and Anderson and Dancigers, who also collaborated on a short film, “Lost and Found,” for the event, paid off in the end. Images was a unique experience, one which encouraged the audience to explore the concept of sound in a whole new way. Although the short films functioned as the central point of the concert, Images also included several live and recorded performances of student, professor and professional musical pieces. The show began with a short set of surround sound four-channel audio works created by students that enveloped the space, setting the tone for the rest of the evening.

“The concert [of four-channel audio works] takes sound as a starting point for an event that is quite immersive and features a range of media,” Dancigers said. “It’s almost a prelude to get you to experience sound not only with your ears, but with your body.”

After these four dream-like student sound pieces, Juilliard Keyboard faculty Aaron Wunsch performed Claude Debussy’s “L’isle joyeuse,” bringing the audience back into the physical world. Following Wunsch, student musicians Aniston Hoffman and Emma Solloway premiered their own original compositions, “Unlucky 13” and “Intangible” on solo cello and solo trombone, and student clarinetist Claire Thomas performed an excerpt from Missy Mazoli’s opera, Song from the Uproar. These pieces, much like Dancigers and Wunsch’s concluding performance as Grand Electric, featured both classical and electronic elements, exploring the sound possibilities of bringing the two genres together in one composition.

“Hearing the two of them together opens up some new sonic possibilities which is something we’ve enjoyed about this project,” Dancigers said.

For everyone who spent the past semester working on Images, getting to see everything come together in the end was worth the climb it took to get there.

“What I found really inspiring was seeing the students push themselves to another level,” Anderson said. “This is a very new venue for me and I am excited to show my work alongside the work our students produced this semester. Everyone worked exceptionally hard, it was an intense push to meet the deadline. I am very proud of their work and for the opportunity to be able to present our work together. This is truly a unique and inspiring experience.”

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