By Jordan Meiland
A visual from the flyer for the event. Courtesy of @musicatpurchase on Instagram.
When you hear the word “music,” what comes to mind? The song you sing in the shower? Your favorite artist? That instrument you’ve been playing for years and years?
Chances are, films and video games weren’t the first things that came to mind. But on March 26 they took center stage for the Music and Technology Department’s second showcase of the semester. Streamed live on YouTube, the event celebrated the efforts of various students in and out of the Purchase Conservatory of Music.
A little after 7p.m., the stream began and Professor Rebecca Haviland welcomed everyone with a big smile and a joyful “hello!” She thanked everyone for coming and explained the significance of this particular showcase.
“Tonight’s show is very, very special,” she explained. “We have finally gotten the opportunity to do a showcase where we’re featuring our film scoring and video game composing students, which is also going to feature a variety of other really fabulously talented people. Illustrators, videographers, filmmakers, it’s going to be a really fun evening.”
Haviland wasn’t the only faculty member to host, though. Minutes in, she brought Professor Alba S.Torremocha, a fellow Conservatory of Music professor, onto the stream as a co-host. Torremocha, who’s originally from Spain, has a history in media composing and classical composing, as well as string playing and orchestra conducting.
She recently worked on the score for a film called “Block,” which she scored entirely remotely, due to the pandemic. The film follows Kit O’Brien, a woman whose struggle to come out as gay is personified by an imaginary 30-pound cinder block she carries around. The film’s trailer was played to start off the evening, as it’s customary for the host to showcase a work of their own to start the evening, Haviland noted.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Paige Monte (bottom left) and Jagger Clark (bottom right). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
After viewing the trailer, the hosts welcomed the first presenters of the night: Jagger Clark and Paige Monte. The two worked together on “Pharus The City of Ruin,” a music video that portrays a segment of Clark’s book “The Fallen King.” Clark, a sophomore studio composition major, composed the music for the story while Monte, a freelance storyboard artist, animator, and illustrator created the artwork.
In the video four children, one of which is an elf, venture through a city in shambles as they search for a God to wake up and fix their world.
“The music I composed behind the imagery, that I conceptualized but was drawn by Paige, brings a sense of happiness, but not fully,” Clark explained. “It sounds like a shell of what it once was.”
Clark’s composition, a flowing orchestral piece, played throughout the music video. In it, you could hear strings, woodwind instruments and a distant piano medley. His composition paired well with Monte’s well-detailed, yet simple, illustrations of the ruined city, the four protagonists, and the place underground where the God they seek sleeps. Throughout the video, dialogue for the characters were presented through frames between illustrations.
“I was absolutely thrilled and elated to have been able to share my work,” Clark said. “I’m extremely appreciative of the fact that I, along with many phenomenal artists, are able to take part in these showcases. It gives us something to look forward to, to work towards, and during these tumultuous times it’s important to be able to stand tall and chins raised as we continue to do our best to follow our passion and let it grow.”
Clark is currently composing more music for videos, as well as music for a film major’s upcoming short movie. He looks forward to any opportunity to collaborate with other composers. Monte encourages anyone looking for storyboarding, animation or illustration work to contact her via her Instagram or her website.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Vincent Nguyen (bottom). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
Vincent Nguyen was next. Nguyen, a freshman studio composition major, presented “Story of a Bird,” a programmatic composition he wrote that accompanied a picture book-style story. He wrote the original score and collaborated with multiple artists who illustrated the story. Interestingly, this composition was one he’d worked on previously and decided to finish earlier in the semester.
“The first version of the music inspired the visuals,” he explained. “When I revived the project, it was my musicals based on the visuals.”
In “Story of a Bird,” we follow Jay, a blue bird, as he grows up in a forest with Mama Bird. But as he grows, circumstances change. He meets two sibling birds, May and Reed, who stay with him when his mother doesn’t return one day. The story has many ups and downs, but ends on a hopeful note.
Throughout “Story of a Bird,” Nguyen’s composing shined. The sounds of the instruments mirrored the events of the story perfectly as the bright illustrations gave a visual to the events described.
“This was my first time ever [participating],” he said. “I was pretty nervous about my work being presented and I hoped that my music was able to take the viewers along emotionally, as the main focus of the story was to convey certain emotions and themes at the right time. I was relieved that people seemed to like it and glad it had the emotional effect it did.”
Nguyen is also working on music in genres such as disco, EDM, metal, rock, jazz, funk and wild western tunes. He’s also crafting an aluminum violin bow for himself.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Egor Subbotin (left) and Cooper Meyers (right). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
Cooper Meyers and Egor Subbotin were next. Meyers, a senior studio composition and media studies double major with a minor in anthropology, and Subbotin, a senior film major, presented a short experimental film titled “Isotonic,” which is about the current state of the world in the pandemic.
“At first, I was just capturing time lapses over the course of the first year of isolation,” Subbotin explained. “Then, I realized that they can illustrate the warped sense of time that seems to be somewhat of a universal experience for people in 2020.”
“The score utilized a drum beat taken from ‘Tessellate’ by Alt-J,” Meyers said. “It emphasizes the feeling of time becoming homogenous during quarantine, creating a sort of melting sensation. It also includes a distorted sample of Dr. Fauci at the end, taken from an interview where he discussed what getting back to normal is going to look like in the coming months, or what normal even is at this point.”
“Isotonic” started with a slow camera pan from a Lego man sitting on a doorknob to a map of the world in a warmly-lit room devoid of music. But when the colors of the map changed, the score kicked in. A piano-driven melody, which was accompanied by electronic audio effects and a steady drum beat, played. On the screen, time lapse visuals of coronavirus case counts rising, the 2020 Presidential Election results, and the changing temperatures of the world could be seen, along with more appearances from the Lego man and time lapses of people working at computers.
“I feel like it [the showcase] is one of those projects that Purchase students benefit from so much, as it promotes collaboration between departments,” Subbotin said. “We need more of that everywhere.”
“This was my first time presenting at a showcase like this, and it was a bit daunting having people’s first impressions of my work be something that was really not like anything else I usually write,” Meyers said. “I’m so honored to have my work shown among so many outstanding composers and filmmakers.”
Subbotin is currently working on a number of projects, including his senior film, a nature documentary about underwater creatures. Meyers has a folk-punk album release planned for the summer and is also working on scoring Subbotin’s senior film.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Nico Van Patten (bottom). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
Nico Van Patten was next. Van Patten, a senior studio composition major, presented a composition inspired by older Nintendo systems.
Van Patten’s composition, titled “Enchanted Home,” utilized the scoring technique found in Pokemon games, where certain locations in the game have special musical themes. His composition was a take on what the starting town’s theme would sound like.
In “Enchanted Home,” looping melodies played on a variety of orchestral and electronic instruments were heard. Interestingly, the two types of instruments seemed to trade off between acting as the backing and the main instrumentals. Fantasy elements, such as those appearing in the Legend of Zelda games, were also incorporated into his soundscape.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I don’t publicly share my music very often yet, and i don’t have anything released yet, so this is kind of my dipping my toes in the water.”
Currently, Van Patten is focusing on compiling different video game themes for his portfolio, which he plans on eventually releasing. He’s also planning on releasing more pop-oriented singles.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Andrew Alford (bottom). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
Andrew Alford was next. Alford, a freshman studio composition major, presented an audio-visual composition he wrote to accompany a time-lapsed visual of nature.
“I tasked myself with writing background music for a collection of time lapses I found on YouTube,” he explained. “I ended up being a lot simpler and lighter than a lot of the dark and epic music I normally write. Because I didn’t have a specific plot to follow, I turned to using certain instruments to represent certain elements in the video. I had to be really particular with certain cues and tempo changes.”
The visuals featured a variety of soothing scenes of nature, ranging from starry skies above thick forests to silhouetted deserts and barren rocklands. As the scenes changed, the instruments changed, giving each visual a unique musical vibe that personified what was shown.
“It was a huge honor presenting my music with so many truly amazing musicians,” he said.
Alford recently wrote the music for a musical which is now in rehearsal. He’s also working on video game projects with friends.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Mara Keen (bottom). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
Mara Keen was next. Keen, a first year graduate student majoring in studio composition, presented a clip from the movie, “Son of Saul,” which she scored for the 2021 Score the World Contest.
“This moment was so powerful to score,” she explained. “Throughout the film, Saul is trying to give a proper burial for a boy. Perhaps, in this moment, him seeing this other young boy smile at him made him feel hopeful.”
In the clip, Saul, an escaped prisoner of Auschwitz, rests in a hut with other worn down escaped prisoners. As they rest, the young boy appears in the doorway, causing Saul to smile. In this moment, the instrumentals quietly build up as the two stare one another down. It goes perfectly with the mood of the scene, which ends on a darker note, aided by the orchestration in the background.
“I was really happy to share my work,” she said. “Any opportunity to show others what I’m working on and capable of I will jump on.”
Keen is currently working on her first year graduate student recital, which entails scoring 30 minutes of film clips. She’s also collaborating with a student in the film department on scoring their upcoming film.
Professor Rebecca Haviland (top left) and Professor Alba S. Torremocha (top right) talking to Julia Klot (bottom left) and Jonathan Oliveira (bottom right). Photo by Jordan Meiland.
Finally, Jonathan Oliveira and Julia Klot came on. Oliveira, a freshman film major who transferred into the Film BFA, and Klot, a senior studio production major, presented the trailer for the film “Stranded Astronaut.”
“Stranded Astronaut,” is an upcoming short sci-fi/drama film written, directed, and shot by Oliveira and scored by Klot. It follows John Cooper, a young man who struggles to balance his aspirations of becoming an astronaut with his relationship, while also dealing with the emotional abuse of his father.
“I’ve been working day and night on this film for the past six months,” Oliveira explained. “Finally taking a moment to share that with people was really something special.”
“I’m very proud of the work I’ve done for it [the film], and it’s been awesome to see all the various aspects of this film come together,” Klot said.
In the trailer, we see various scenes of Cooper interacting with his girlfriend and father while an ominous orchestral score sets the tone. The content gets a bit explicit, but not to a point where it’s overpowering.
“This film couldn’t have been possible without the help of so many talented people,” Oliveira said. “My producer Racquel Gallo, my assistant director Gabriel Ortega, my composer Julia Klot, and everyone who donated to help make this happen. Thank you all so much.”
“I think these showcases are such a cool opportunity for students to present what they’re working on, and I’m always so impressed and inspired by the other students’ work,” Klot said.
Oliveira is currently working on his thesis film “Deux Visage.” He’s also planning on continuing work on “Stranded Astronaut” with hopes of it doing well in the film festival circuit. Klot recently released her EP “Ghost” and is holding her senior recital on campus in May.
In times like these, a little bit art is always a treat. It's safe to say that the second Music and Technology Festival showcase delivered.
The stream is available for viewing at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4LciHDqyLKo