March 18, 2011

Animation and Music Take Miami

SCA Students and Faculty Produce 15 Pieces for Symphony Building Opening

Thirteen students and alumni from the USC School of Cinematic Arts Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts, five massive screens, two established animation directors/professors, and one world-class conductor came together at the Grand Opening Gala for the New World Symphony’s New World Center January 29th in Miami.

Clip from Promenade 1 by Emily Henricks

The animation program, directed by USC Professors Michael Patterson and Candace Reckinger was projected within a live performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition conducted by New World Symphony founder and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas. The groundbreaking building by the architect Frank Gehry was designed to bring classical music performance into the twenty-first century.

Rehearsal for the gala opening of the New World

“Our first visit to the theater under construction was both inspiring and challenging. The screens were awesome, and we'd never designed for this kind of space before,” said Reckinger.

Patterson added, "We wanted to create an immersive experience in this fantastic space that was both artistic and entertaining.  Our team would need to deliver at a professional level for this incredible opportunity."

Tilson Thomas had more than twenty hours of collabrative brain-storming meetings over Skype with Patterson, Reckinger and students to discuss both the music, and the paintings of Russian artist Victor Hartmann which inspired Mussorgsky to write Pictures at an Exhibition.

Clip from Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba Yaga) by Alessandro Ceglia

“Initially we thought it would be a series of shorts,” continued Reckinger. “Then, Tilson Thomas spoke to us about certain themes and visual associations that were very important to him. We realized there was a coherence to the piece, and we should try to bring out the structure that was inherent in the music.”

The New World Center in Miami

Patterson and Reckinger have a long history of blending music and animation together. As directors and animators, they have credits on groundbreaking music videos Take on Me by A-ha, Luka by Suzanne Vega and Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul. Patterson teaches the course Visual Music at the School of Cinematic Arts.

“We planted the seeds for this event with our Blendo - hybrid media animation show last year,” said Patterson. “Students were inspired by the design challenge of working on five screens and tailoring their work to a live orchestral performance. The animators were excited to be a part of creating work in the new hybrid art form. Our goal was to create an artistic experience that would bring together music and animation in an new and exciting way.”

The New World Symphony held its inaugural concert in 1988 and has become a prominent training center for aspiring musicians. Tilson Thomas studied music and composition at USC. Gehry is also a USC alumnus and was recently named the Judge Widney Professor in Architecture at USC.

From left to right: Ryan Kravetz - 2nd yr MFA Carolyn Chrisman - senior undergrad Cecilia Fletcher - 3rd yr MFA Candace Reckinger - Faculty Seong Young Kim - 2nd yr MFA Michael Patterson - Faculty Elizabeth Willy - 3rd yr MFA Ria Ama - recent MFA grad Steven Day - recent MFA grad Emily Henricks - 3rd yr MFA Andy Lyon - recent MFA grad Michael Tilson Thomas - Conductor/Artistic Director New World Symphony Melissa Bouwman - recent MFA grad Alessandro Ceglia - recent MFA grad

“From the beginning we all worked collaboratively with Mr. Tilson Thomas to discuss both the musical phrasing and the paintings associated with our section,” said animation MFA student Cecelia Fletcher. “My section is based on a painting of children playing in the Tuileries garden in Paris, so from the start we discussed using the screens to immerse the audience in a garden and utilizing the animation to illustrate the joys and sorrows of childhood.”

Clip from Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks by Seong Young Kim

Animation students and alumni involved include Ria Ama, Melissa Bouwman, Alessandro Ceglia, Carolyn Chrisman, Steven Day, Fletcher, Emily Henricks, Seong-Young Kim, Ryan Kravetz, Andy Lyon, and Elizabeth Willy. Henricks won the 2010 student Academy Award for her film Multiply.

Pictures at an Exhibition View the Pictures at an Exhibition Photo Gallery »