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Synӕsthesia performance combines art and music

May 2, 2017 // by Jaime DeSimone

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with University of North Florida Art and Professor Vanessa Cruz about Synӕsthesia, a performance with the Jacksonville Symphony at MOCA Jacksonville on May 14. Cruz collaborated with Printmaking Professor Sheila Goloborotko from the Department of Art and Design on the project. We asked Cruz about their inspiration and process to create the multidimensional images.

Abstract Image Excerpt Glass 1
Vanessa B. Cruz and Sheila Goloborotko, abstract image inspired by Philip Glass, 2017. Digital image.

Please describe the genesis of this project.

Ever wonder what it would be like to see music? That was the starting premise to this collaborative project between artists when first approached by the Jacksonville Symphony. The end result is a fusion of visual arts and music, brought to life both through a large-scale projection of tailor-made media and music by the Jacksonville Symphony's chamber orchestra.

What ideas went into producing the imagery, its palette, and its movement?

Sheila and I had collaborated on a piece together last year called System in which the images of coral was used. That project lead to the discussion of how in a performance the energy that moves from the conductor to the musicians, and then from the musicians to the audience, reminded us of tidal currents. That is what brought us to us the imagery we chose. For the Glass pieces we used colors, oceans waves, and more, since this body of work was the brightest in terms of its sound, it is brightest in its palette. However, for the Bach pieces, we move from water images transitioning to land and then to sky as this Cantata is about death. Berg is an atonal composer, so after researching his methodology, we discovered that an atonal scale uses twelve notes per octave rather than the traditional eight-note scale. We then decided to use a twelve-color palette and create all secondary colors from blending the twelve.

The movement for each piece is based on the time measurement of each piece. Edits and movement are following the timing of each composer. It was a complex process, but we felt the end result far outweighed the difficulty.

Abstract Image - Gold Synӕsthesia Event
Abstract image by Vanessa Cruz and Sheila Goloborotko, 2017.

Where you involved with the selection of music?

We were not involved with the music selection. However, it served as the source of inspiration for the visuals.

MOCA's theater provides a new environment for the performance. What do you hope it will achieve?

The opportunity explores new avenues on multiple levels: new repertoire in a new venue for new audiences in a fresh and engaging multimedia genre. The intimacy of a chamber orchestra juxtaposed with a visual art space and projection creates a product that speaks to the audience in ways that are unattainable in a traditional performance hall. The inclusion of projection is not superficial but rather an element aesthetically integrated with the music that enriches the artistic experience.

What types of preparation was necessary to organize this event? Or, how did you collaborate with your peers at the Jacksonville Symphony leading up to the performances?

Thankfully Sheila and I had some, albeit very little, musical skills. We could both read music and play an instrument. This was immensely helpful. We were able to get a copy of the score of the works to see exactly when certain instruments came in, etc. Tony Nickel and Nathan Aspinall were extremely generous with their time. They met with Sheila and me on several occasions to see our progress and discuss staging, etc. We hope this will be the first of many collaborations with the Jacksonville Symphony.

Abstract Image Synӕsthesia Event
Abstract image by Vanessa Cruz and Sheila Goloborotko, 2017.

What do you hope guests will take away from the performance?

We would like guests to resonate with the sound and visuals of the performance, to think about the complexity visuals are reflection of the complexity of notes they are hearing. We hope it expands their ability to enjoy a performance.

Two intimate performances take place on May 14 at 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. in MOCA Jacksonville's theater. Cruz and Goloborotko will be in attendance. Seating is limited, so please purchase tickets in advance on the Symphony's website. To see this and other works by these artists, please visit their respective websites: vanessabcruz.com and goloborotko.com.

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