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Published: October 22, 2013

Cross-campus Collaboration Merges Film and Music

Even though Kira Omelchenko and Dana Plays work in two different departments, their roles as professors have many similarities. They both could be called conductors, and they both could be called directors.

Omelchenko, assistant professor of music, and Plays, professor of communication, have come together for what they hope is the first of many future partnerships. Plays’ experimental film students have created silent movies to roll to Omelchenko’s UT Orchestra performance.

The Halloween concert will be held Tuesday, Oct. 29, at 7:30 p.m. in Falk Theatre. A pre-concert discussion will take place at 6:45 p.m. led by both Omelchenko and Plays. The concert is free and open to the public, and audience Halloween costumes are encouraged.

“This process resembles the way Hollywood scores its films,” Plays said. “That’s what attracted me to the collaboration.”

Plays’ students spent four weeks filming and editing two collaborative works to accompany two of the six pieces the orchestra will perform. For Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre the students used montage and appropriation techniques fusing Disney’s 1929 film Skeleton Dance with original footage featuring a representation of the grim reaper. For Smetana’s The Moldau, the students used time-lapsed nature and wind photography, taking 12 minutes of an element like the clouds and compressing the footage to show fast motion.

“It’s a visual representation of music so you can both see and hear it,” said Plays, explaining how the students were completely involved in the cinematography and music editing, using intuition and editing to get the film to seemingly dance to the music.

For Omelchenko, the biggest challenge is reminding her students to remain focused while playing instead of peeking up at the movies. The collaboration is a first for her orchestra but something from which she felt they could sincerely benefit.

“This concert is something new for UT and audiences,” Omelchenko said. “It’s not just experimental film, it’s an experimental concert.”