Negotiation dialogues is a modern bedroom work with no words, but plenty to say. Originally slated to be part of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s 2020 SOLUNA festival, Carmen Menza’s immersive piece will premiere on September 18 at the Boedeker Building (Cedars Union) in Dallas.
This chamber piece in five movements includes a cello, viola, clarinet and vibraphone with interludes of spoken poetry. The music starts a conversation by triggering elaborate projections powered by software algorithms. If the clarinet plays a volley of notes, the projection reacts and continues the dialogue. The projections surround the audience on screens, creating an immersive environment.
“As the musicians play their roles, the dialogue takes place with the visuals behind them on the screens,” Menza said.
The play studies the impact of technology on everyday life.
“The inspiration for Negotiation dialogues was how our dialogue is changing with each other in light of changing technological advances in communication and what might be the future societal impact of these technologies in our world, ”Menza said.
Negotiation dialogues reflects the growing acceptance of artificial intelligence (AI), from the sophistication of digital assistants like Siri and Alexa to the development of self-driving cars.
“There’s a lot of good that comes with AI, but there’s always biases that happen because someone has to write this code and take certain sets of data to produce this code and these programs. I think there are ethical and fairness issues that we need to think about, ”Menza said.
To develop his concept, Menza, whose work has been presented at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, SOLUNA Festival, Dallas AURORA Biennial, Carneal Simmons Contemporary Art, Dallas International Film Festival, Dallas VideoFest and KERA, assembled a creative team. She composed the music with her husband, Mark Menza, film and television composer, and he is also the music producer for the project.
Joel Olivas is the VFX artist, host and projectionist of the project. Eric Farrar, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Associate Professor of Animation in the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication (ATEC) at UTDallas, is providing technical support and will play the vibraphone. Musicians from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra play cello, viola and clarinet.
Because the music begins the dialogue, the creative process began with the composition of the original score. “The music indicates how we want to handle the visuals,” Menza said.
The instrumentation centers around one of Menza’s favorite instruments.
“I love the cello,” Menza said. “It would still be a cello, so it was just a matter of finding two other instruments that I thought would be a good mix.”
There is a fifth instrument for this chamber ensemble: a computer. While the musicians play the first movement, the music will be recorded. During an interlude, Mark Menza will capture excerpts from the first movement and edit it digitally. Musicians will hear these digital variations of what they played in the first movement as they play the second movement. This computer generation of themes will continue throughout the play.
“It’s kind of like a live DJ on the fly,” Menza said. “I see it as a theme and variations in a whole new light.”
As an interdisciplinary artist, Menza enjoys sculpting spaces, using the architecture of a space for projections and creating an immersive experience.
“Immersive art, for me, should take you out of the real world for a while,” Meza said. “You can be inside the story. “
For Negotiation dialogues, Menza uses 12- to 14-foot screens to envelop the audience in the projections. The audience will wander the space, turning to see different aspects of the dialogue as the visuals swirl around the room. “I want to touch all the senses when someone comes to one of my immersive installations. I want them to feel in space and to be able to look completely around them, ”Menza said.
The ever-changing world of technology fascinates Menza, inspiring future projects. She is interested in robotics, lidar technology, NFTs and metaverse.
“My love is music, technology, and visuals, so anything I can do to push that envelope further and look at different types of technology and light-based work,” Menza said. “I want to visualize the data. “
This digital part is not intended to be viewed on a computer screen.
“You really have to be there in person to experience it,” Menza said. “I hope the premiere of Negotiation dialogues will be a time to celebrate life and look forward to good things in the future.