Here we are at the end of Charlotte's 2013 Ulysses Festival.
With a theme focusing on the convergence of technology and art, we saw a lot of projections. Images projected behind performance art is not an inherently bad idea by any means--for instance, CSO's 2013-14 Knightsounds series will include a program celebrating Ansel Adams. Now that would be a great place for some projections.
"American Music Masters and Pioneers," the April 19 Knightsounds concert, had a great line-up: more living than dead composers, a timpani concerto, some minimalism--excellent prospects. And the music was wonderful. But the accompanying primary-colored geometric projections were frustrating.
Knightsounds is designed for a younger crowd--younger music, the availability of tweet seats, drinks and a DJ following the concert. But I can't help but think that the projections are meant for young people, too, that the involvement of digital technology is thought to lure Generations X and Y from their iPhones.
But the projection quality was abysmal. As I was trying to absorb some new music I had never heard before (kudos to the CSO), I was distracted by what looked like my 1997 Windows screen saver. Or latte art. To fracture my attention for these swirls and lines is...well, it feels patronizing. It reminds me of pacifying a fussy baby by hanging a mobile in the crib.
And here's the kicker: it was the second time that week I'd been annoyed by nonsensical projections. In Opera Carolina's production of "The Pearl Fishers," a few large props were placed on the stage and supplemented by backdrop projections. This makes a lot of sense financially, and some of the images were nice, but logic was left behind. As the story progresses, the action takes place in the same location for a long time--Bizet and other opera composers didn't vary location much because scenery changes were logistically difficult. It doesn't take much to change location with projected backdrops, but upping the change frequency because it's easy doesn't make sense. As the action progressed on the tangible temple steps for close to an hour, the background changed every few minutes. Projection for projection's sake. But the images weren't worth it--if Knightsounds covered the Windows screen saver, Opera Carolina projected the desktop images. I've seen that tropical cove before.
I didn't see Opera Carolina's production of "The Magic Flute," I didn't live in Charlotte at the time. From the pictures I've seen, the more abstract aesthetic allowed more flexibility with projections and their rate of variation. "The Pearl Fishers" aesthetic was supposed to be realistic. The two methods and aesthetics don't cross over very well.
I understand that projections are a low budget way to visually enhance a production, but I think we can do better. If what we do with technology confuses the message or jeopardizes the integrity of the original art, it's a problem. No one can blame anyone for experimenting, but the hypothesis and result diverged along the way. Let's hone and progress.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Here we are at the end of Charlotte's 2013 Ulysses Festival.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
Live tweeting is a big thing in journalism school. As an arts journalist who focuses in performing arts, I would flinch every time Syracuse University asked me to live tweet an event. The thought of sitting at a symphony concert or opera with my phone out goes against every lesson I've ever learned about concert etiquette. And I have glowing concert etiquette--I live to defy the people who mutter something about the young people who are late, who have their phones out, who are talking during the concert.
To satisfy my assignments, I would live tweet restaurant experiences, art galleries visits and street fairs.
Some things are fated, though. The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra experimented with tweet seats during their final Knightsounds concert last Friday, and I was asked to participate. Two back rows were reserved for tweeters. We were given a few hashtags and asked to dim our phone screens.
There were about five tweeters. It's an interesting product in itself, but it wasn't a great concert experience--not because the music wasn't good, but because I wasn't listening the way I usually do. I'm not terribly interested in taking my (very few) twitter fans to a concert--it fractures my attention and creates a superficial musical experience because I'm trying to cook up a witty comment rather than listening to the subtleties of the music.
Below is the result. I storified the #knightsounds tweets--fyi, the latest tweets are at the top, so you should read from the bottom up, like a twitter feed.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
After tragedy and persecution--Hiroshima, the Holocost, the Rwanda Genocide--six people consider human resilience through poetry.
Katja Esson documented their experience in her award-winning film, "Poetry of Resilience." CPCC will screen the film at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday in Pease Auditorium and at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Tate Hall.
Esson and one of the featured poets, Li-Young Lee, who survived China's Cultural Revolution, will discuss the film and poetry at 11 a.m. after the Thursday screening in Halton Theater.
When I spoke to Esson, she talked about her early anxiety about presenting poetry through film. She didn't want to have poems read over blurred footage of water lilies--there must be visually compelling material for good film. Likewise, she was nervous about excerpting parts of other artists's work (Lee's poems are very long).
She feels confident about the finished product now.
Esson will also address film and videography students at CPCC while in Charlotte.
Monday, April 15, 2013
Friday, April 12, 2013
Tuesday evening, the Levine Museum of the New South hosted "Mill Village: A Piedmont Rhapsody."
The multimedia performance--live music, videos, images--was part of the Ulysses Festival whose 2013 theme is "Brave New Worlds: Technology and Art."
A dozen Charlotte Symphony Orchestra musicians crowded around projected images and videos as they played a six-movement work composed by David Crowe. The piece tells the story of textile mill workers in the Piedmont region, both when they were content with their new jobs and when the mechanized industry left them desolate. Crowe's music is dependent, in parts, on the weaving room recordings for rhythmic backbone, and does a nice job of incorporating footage of mill workers. This work is more than music that adds multimedia aspects; all elements congeal to make a truly integrative whole (a number of composers have attempted this, but most do not succeed).
The "Prologue" opens with a lone clarinet solo and instruments join in one at a time with an individual figure they repeat on a loop. The folk-like melodies and the minimalistic repetition combine to create a half Aaron Copland/half Steve Reich sound.
There are oodles of musicologists who study how regional location is represented musically. With this piece, there are plenty of obvious answers. The footage of a specific place, for instance, is a dead giveaway. But there's something very American about the sound of the music itself: the way the motives mimic industrial rhythms; the folk songs and hymns used to express the community's entertainment and praise; the broad melodic lines in the brass indicate a spirit of ambition and grounded values--things we associate with a national zeitgeist.
I was never the music-and-place kind of musicologist, so I don't have all the answers. But there is something thrilling about hearing a region you know represented accurately through sound. Community, regional and national identity are difficult things to articulate, and recognizing an idea you've had but haven't been able to define is thoroughly satisfying.
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
When spring is in the air, Debussy is on the sound waves.
Last weekend, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra performed a concert opening and closing with works by music's most popular Impressionist. On Tuesday, the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art hosted a program centered around a Debussy piece in their Music and Museum series.
As I walked away from each concert, Tryon Street's cherry blossom petals floated around me, straight out of a Monet garden painting.
The tie between Impressionism and springtime isn't exactly a mystery. There's a high concentration of natural subject matter for these artists--the ocean, meadows, all those water lilies Monet painted--and springtime allows our rediscovery of nature (maybe only theoretically since winter in Charlotte hardly keeps one indoors).
Musically, Impressionistic qualities include freedom, undulating dynamics and loose rhythm. Like the out-of-focus sunsets and reflecting pools in Impressionistic paintings, the music lacks defined boundaries. I think the thing that places this late 19th-century aesthetic in this season is its likeness to heat. In the opening of Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun," the flute solo drips downward and rests lazily on the lowest note before languidly moving back up the scale. Listening to the CSO play this Friday night slowed the speed of a hectic week, giving me my first deep breath in a busy spring season.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Friday, April 5, 2013
The Light Factory's current exhibit, "Connected There but Not Always Here," is zooming out from all of those Facebook pictures we "like."
While social media often purports an unending stream of lively, crowded activities, the photos hung in The Light Factory contradict this account with depictions of the person behind the post. These scenes betray the cyber myths, showing a much lonelier reality.
Dina Litovsky's series, "Untag this photo," shows clumps of people hovering around a smartphone or camera, enjoying their cyber lives instead of the ongoing party. Posing for pictures takes the place of company, and those without devices sit alone.
Nate Larson and Marni Shindelman have taken to cyber stalking in the name of art. In their series, "Geolocation," the two have photographed the location from which a tweet was sent; the photos are accompanied by the tweet that summoned the artists. To capture these images, Larson and Shindelman watched their twitter feed for interesting posts and traveled to the locations listed by the tweeter's GPS tracker. The lack of people in any of their photos accentuates a sense of desolation.
|Two photos from Larson and Shindelman's "Geolocation," in The Light Factory through May 19. Courtesy of The Light Factory. Click on the photos to enlarge.|
|From Gabriela Herman's "Bloggers," in the Light Factory through May 19. Courtesy of The Light Factory.|
This exhibit allows an opportunity to record your reactions. Visitors can sit at a computer in the gallery and respond to prompts about each artists' work as a webcam films them. The responses are then fed to a video loop projected on the wall. Celine Latulipe, Berto Gonzalez and Annabel Manning created the concept and technology for this interactive addition.