A Meeting of Minds

MU Faculty Collaborate on Intermedia Performance
Carolina Heredia and Katina Bitsicas

Assistant Professor of Music Composition Carolina Heredia and Assistant Professor of Digital Storytelling Katina Bitsicas first collaborated on a piece commissioned by a Rhode Island-based music ensemble, and plan to continue working together.

Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Departments: 
Music
Digital Storytelling

Argentinian composer Carolina Heredia’s work explores the merging of music and visuals, and her current research is invested in the production of interactive audiovisual works. This semester, the assistant professor of music composition launched a new course called Intermedia, which focuses on creating collaborative, interdisciplinary works featuring poetry, music, video, and other elements. While searching for collaborators on campus, Heredia says several colleagues suggested she contact Katina Bitsicas, an assistant professor of digital storytelling.

“It started with me asking her if she had any students who would be interested in my class, and we ended up making plans to work together for the next two years,” Heredia says. “My research as a postdoc was in intermedia chamber opera, much of it conveyed by visuals, so Katina and I are in the initial steps of collaborating on that.”

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

In the meantime, Heredia had a commission with a Rhode Island-based music ensemble, Verdant Vibes, for a 10-minute piece to premier at Brown University and the University of Rhode Island, and then take the production on tour for a year. Heredia asked Bitsicas if she would like to provide visual accompaniments to the piece, and she agreed to help out.

“I was trying to compose a piece to convey some of my experiences as an immigrant, coming from a country with a very contrasting set of social rules and ways of communicating,” Heredia says.

She says it was a coincidence that the dancer Verdant Vibes called for the collaboration, Gisela Creus, was an immigrant from Spain who brought her own experiences to the piece.

dancer Gisela Creus

“I’ve written a lot about the experience of the immigrant because it’s an inescapable sensation of otherness that I have confronted, perhaps daily, for the nine years that I have lived in the United States,” Heredia says. “I pursued my graduate studies here, I found a dream job here, and I’m married to an American citizen, so I’m currently indefinitely based in the United States by choice. But that process of adaptation is very hard, and you feel it almost every day. I realized it makes sense that it filters into my art so often.”

Expanding the Artistic Palette

Bitsicas says she helped to broaden the conceptual framework of the piece.

“The first movement is called ‘Nostalgia,’ so it harkens back to the place that Carolina came from, but also nostalgia as far as childhood and memory in general,” Bitsicas says. “In the video part, I used my own childhood videos of myself when I was a little dancer. They are distorted and flipped and reversed and overlaid, but you can still see the sense of gesture and the movement of the child dancing.”

Bitsicas says the piece starts out slowly and builds to a crescendo, with a kind of release at the end. The second movement, ‘Ecstasy,’ also begins slowly and builds to a cacophonous conclusion.

“It’s like the intensity of emotion that Carolina describes, and that was reflected in the dancer and the way she was moving, almost frantically at the end, then there is that release where she curls up in a meditative or sleeping collapse,” Bitsicas says. She says she has done a lot of work in video installation and multi-channel video installation, but this was the first time she has worked with live video, which was new and a bit stressful.

“I felt like I was a performer of video, and it was cool to combine both of those worlds and do something I’ve never done before,” Bitsicas says. “I programmed the keys of my keyboard to go to the music or to make video cuts, so my computer became an instrument, which was great to experience.”

Bitsicas computer

They both say the next step is creating a version of the production that can tour, which may include a holographic performance of Creus’s dance routine, and also creating a version that would be more like a fixed art installation.

“The cool thing about this project is Carolina comes from a musical background, and I come from the art world, and since this is a collaboration, we see this as something that can exist in both worlds,” Bitsicas says.

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