Jason Akira Somma, Anonymous

Jason Akira Somma

Anonymous

Overview

October 2011 - Jason Akira Somma, 2008-2009 Dance Protégé

Although their year of mentoring ended two years ago, Jason Akira Somma maintains a productive professional relationship with his former mentor, Jiří Kylián. Their latest collaboration, Anonymous, commissioned for the opening of the new Korzo Theatre in The Hague, is a startlingly haunting work that marries the progressive choreography of Kylián with an innovative video and sound score by Somma.

Anonymous explores the discrepancy between the two worlds within us: the one that we allow others to see, and the vulnerable side of us that we prefer to keep under cover.

In this video: Anonymous, commissioned for the opening of the new Korzo Theatre in The Hague, 2011. Conception, choreography, lighting and decor: Jiří Kylián (realization Loes Schakenbos). Dancers: Sabine Kupferberg, Cora Bos-Kroese. Video, sound track and computer technology: Jason Akira Somma. Costumes: Joke Visser, Hermien Hollander (realization). Production Manager: Merel Eijkelhof. Dresser: Tina Tuit. Original Music: Monserat Figueras’ Anonymous

In this video: Anonymous, commissioned for the opening of the new Korzo Theatre in The Hague, 2011. Conception, choreography, lighting and decor: Jiří Kylián (realization Loes Schakenbos). Dancers: Sabine Kupferberg, Cora Bos-Kroese. Video, sound track and computer technology: Jason Akira Somma. Costumes: Joke Visser, Hermien Hollander (realization). Production Manager: Merel Eijkelhof. Dresser: Tina Tuit. Original Music: Monserat Figueras’ Anonymous

If success in art is partly to provoke feelings and discussion, then, by any standards, Anonymous is highly successful. At its premiere, some members of the audience hated it, while others were moved to tears and related to it very deeply.

To realize his vision for Anonymous, Kylián requested “absolutely terrifying” video and music from Somma, recognizing that powerful, but contradictory, sounds and images would be paramount for the success of Anonymous.

Jason Akira Somma

Anonymous

Interview

October 2011 - Jason Akira Somma, 2008-2009 Dance Protégé

In an interview, Somma talks about his own creative process:

Watching this choreography is disturbing, largely due to the soundtrack. How did you meet the challenge set out by the choreographer to create something so terrifying?
Sound is so powerful because we literally experience sound waves in our ears and around us. To create the ‘scary’ noises for the soundtrack, I went to the studio and hooked up microphones to different guitar pedals and recorded while I played around. I also shrieked into the microphone a lot! Some of the sounds were field recordings that I ‘pushed’ in post-production.

At first, what I created was quite monolithic, but Jiří preferred something less predictable. I had to move the sound from ‘intense’ to ‘scary’, so I made it more sporadic, with more ups and downs.

The resulting sound was the most aggressive I've ever created. When I was making it, I would sometimes laugh at the absurdity of how far we were going with it.

The video effect is unusual and also distressing to watch, particularly when it is paired with your sound. How did you come across the effects you used?
For me, there is something quite beautiful in a digital ‘glitch’, and one turned out to be perfect for Anonymous. I had been working on ‘breaking the code’ for this particular glitch for a few years, and could control it to a certain degree. Ultimately, though, I have no real control over the colours and how they bleed. For me, a large part of the beauty in this effect is its unpredictability.

I showed Jiří this technique I had been developing and, luckily, he fell in love with it.

How is it created? Well, without going too deeply into the ‘video geeky’ stuff:
Essentially, I had to learn to carefully destroy the architecture of the video. Unfortunately, the only software programs that allow access to the architecture of video for corruption – in order to create the glitches – are not very good. Inevitably, the program crashes my computer while I am working, so it is a slow process. I have to work on only a few frames at a time, pausing often to save my work.

You created the work in only a few days. How did you feel about it in the end?
Overall the entire experience was extremely rewarding. This was the first time I was allowed so much control and input into Jiří’s process and work, which showed immense trust between us.

It was an extremely large amount of work to do within a short period of time, and many things had to be recreated from scratch on my end, even after having worked a long day. But Jiří is an easy individual to work with, as he isn't afraid to sit beside you and work through issues step by step and, more importantly, laugh throughout the process and have fun.

Will the piece be performed again?
Jiří has spoken about making this piece into an evening-length work and I am interested in how one could do that, as this version was an installation. However, I welcome the challenge because he’s simply a fun guy, no matter how scary the product might be!

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