We are delighted to be working with Netia Jones, designer of projections for our performance on Saturday 21 April as part of Impossible Brilliance: the music of Conlon Nancarrow. We caught up with Netia to find out what’s involved in producing and designing her projections.
Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you end up working as a projection designer?
I currentlywork as an director/designer in opera and concerts always using projection and film. I studied music and visual art simultaneously and introducing technology was a natural progression. Along the way I have worked in editing, installation and interactive media to forage for techniques that can best be applied to dealing with live music in performance, which has its own very specific demands and negotiations.
How do you go about designing projections to accompany existing works?
On any given project I will spend an earnest amount of time in preparation, both listening and reading up. Some projects have a greater narrative content and some, as this one, are just about creating a supporting layer to enhance the listening experience. There is always a visual language that emerges after this period of research, which can only really come out of total immersion.
And how do you go about realising them?
I film and collate all the visual material, and edit to sound or to scores depending on the project. Then there is an extended period of programming to enable it all to be played live. The fundamental idea is that the film and projection follows the live performance, rather than the other way around. For me visual technology is a fantastic toolbox for responding to sound worlds in a way that enriches the experience of participating in live music. Projection can be as simple as integrated projected text, or it can encompass interactive triggers, sound, live cameras, film, or any combination of these.
Here’s a video of some of Netia’s previous work:
Who, or what, inspires you?
I am completely inspired by quiet geniuses, the kind of creative innovators who are impelled along a certain path whether anyone is listening or not. I’m afraid I am also slightly obsessed with mechanisation, machines, mathematics, science, technology and projected light.
If you could pick a favourite project or personal career highlight to date, what would it be?
Projecting 30 metres high onto Sizewell Nuclear Power station while performing Ligeti, Scelsi, Ockeghem and Mazulis. I can’t believe I was allowed to. Possibly I dreamt it.
Can you tell us about the projections in Impossible Brilliance: the music of Conlon Nancarrow?
Unlike other projects that are more narrative or concept-driven, I see projection in this concert to be a way of supporting this amazing and exhilarating programme, and perhaps suggesting, or allowing, some ideas about the composer to emerge. We have some really wonderful images of Nancarrow, and the tools of his fairly unique trade are so beautiful that I think some reliance on stills, and possibly text, can bring together these startlingly brilliant pieces and create some kind of picture of the man behind them. I am very interested in this quote from Nancarrow: “My essential concern, whether you can analyze it or not, is emotional; there’s an impact that I try to achieve by these means”. I have been slightly in love with Nancarrow for quite a while and it is a pure joy to be working on this project.
And finally, what is the most played piece of music on your mp3 player right now?
Conlon Nancarrow String Quartet No.1, Oliver Knussen Upon One Note, György Kurtag Jatekok.