At least half of the bios I write include some reference to the powerful experience I had as a child seeing Disney’s Fantasia in a movie theater. Movie theater being an important distinction since we see so much animation via the web these days and I don’t think “Night on Bald Mountain” would have had the same impact as a full screen youtube video. The presentation of Fantasia as if it had a live symphonic score made an impression on me as well.
I have always wanted to see my own work accompanied by a live score. Performances by artists such as Miya Matrayek, Brent Green, or even Bruce Brown showing his early surf films while narrating them live (something that apparently happened as late as 2008) further inspired me to take up the charge of creating a live-scored animation. More recently and locally I’ve been impressed by the pairing of the scratch film animation of Brian Ratigan with the music of Koas.
When Andy Smith of Indie Grits Film Festival contacted me to see if I wanted to create a piece for their Cinemovements program I leapt at the opportunity. My first listen to the composition chosen for me to create a visual accompaniment to was enroute to SCANZ 2013: 3rd Nature (an artist residency and symposium in New Zealand). One step in my creative process was a careful study of “All Souls Carnival” (1957) by Len Lye which was on display at the Govett Brewster. The goal of this animated short commissioned to screen alongside a live chamber music performance “was not synchronisation but a free interaction.” I gained a lot of confidence from watching a pairing of Lye’s often frenetic painting on film with classical music since my work is also hard to slow down.
This year’s Cinemovements will consist entirely of music by South Carolina composer Mary Lee Taylor Kinosian performed by a string quartet. The specific piece I animated is “Simplicity,” Kinosian’s interpretation of Mozart and part of a suite of music that traces the cultural progression of music through history. I chose to create the animation entirely from plants in the Asteraceae family (sunflowers, dandelions, daisies,..). The plants are all native to Florida with ranges that extend into South Carolina. At it’s simplest the imagery consists of a single petal flickering like a candle’s flame.
A preview of some of this imagery will be shown during the intermission and exit of Jacksonville’s Riverside Fine Arts series’ concert Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain, another pairing of my art with classical music that I am extremely honored by. I’ll be in attendance at both events and having them fall within a single week in April makes me feel like I’ve made it.
Getting to see my animation with a live score performed by a string quartet will be an uncanny moment where I briefly occupy a place alongside the artists who inspired me as a child and hopefully inspire someone else. The difference between seeing something like Cinemovements live and watching a documentation of the performance online is like seeing a Monet, Dali, or other extraordinary painting in person or seeing the post card reproduction of it. With support from the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences Indie Grits has created it’s own “Fantasia” with a regional character.
Feel free to join me at either of these nights of classical music and animation:
– April 11th – Riverside Fine Arts presents Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Zakir Hussain, 7:30 PM, Church of the Good Shepard, 1100 Stockton St., Jacksonville FL
– April 15th – Cinemovements with the SC Philharmonic, 8:00 PM, 300 Senate St., Columbia SC (FB invite)