In the studio of husband-wife power team Carmen and Mark Menza, art is alive and all around. Carmen is a visual artist, and her trippy, enchanting images move, like a living creature, across her laptop screen, while her composer husband Mark cues up the powerful symphony that will lure users into their Aurora installation. When the art and music align at Aurora – Powered by Reliant, it’s sure to send shivers down your spine and put a smile on your face.
The combination of audio and visuals for their piece reflects the undergirding feel of Aurora which is synesthesia, or the joining of two senses. Interestingly, Mark is a rare synesthetic, explaining that he has always seen certain notes as specific colors. Carmen believes that everyone who attends Aurora can experience the feeling of synesthesia. “If they are standing within the installation, they will be immersed in it.”
The pair will be joined by the rest of their team, The AfterImage Collective, including Gary Levinson, the principal associate concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra; Freddie Jones, an accomplished jazz musician; and VJ Anomolee, an expert in 3D animation and projections. The concept of their piece, “The Theory of Chance” capitalizes upon the variances in live performance. The musicians will be playing a piece scored by Mark, while the image “tracks” created by Carmen and curated by Anomolee will shift and change, affected by the direction of the solos.
“It’s really exciting because of the community element,” Carmen explains. “The scored piece is available for download, and musicians can practice the music ahead of time and join us in creating this piece live.” When those local musicians play in real-time, it will affect the visuals projected onto a screen, creating different works of art throughout the night that will be a unique moment in time that lucky participants can access.
It’s obvious the Menzas and their team have taken the Aurora theme “All Together Now” to heart when planning their piece. Every element of it plays upon a union of sorts. According to Mark, there’s a divide between “jazzers” and classical players, with traditionalists believing that only the latter could be considered “legit.” His piece, entitled “Refugee” speaks to how musicians Freddie Jones and Gary Levinson will be leaving the comfort of their “homes” in order to come together for one piece that is half playful jazz, half 21st Century chamber piece.
“They’re sort of strangers in one another’s lands, but they have to learn how to play nice,” Mark says with a laugh. It’s obvious, during a playback of their solos, just how differently two musicians can approach a solo. But despite their contrasting genres, it’s clear that both musicians have incredible artistic talent.
The overall piece comes together beautifully, under the masterful hand of Mark, who has a varied resume. He’s created scores for television, movies and more, from Jimmy Neutron and Dragon Ball GT to an entire ballet for the Manassas Ballet Theatre. His cinematic background shows up in his dramatic, dynamic and even humorous piece that is deeply engaging for casual listeners and those with a trained ear.
For the Menzas, the audiences can become the artists and the evening comes alive as a truly participatory piece. “I’d tell people ‘you don’t want to miss this,’” Carmen says with a grin. “It’s a one-night-only event and it’s not one to skip.”
Entrance to Aurora is free to the public and will include educational activities for families. If you are interested in elevating your experience, A VIP Experience ticket is available for purchase. It includes all-night access to three exclusive VIP Lounges located throughout Aurora (featuring private bars, food by Wolfgang Puck and themed décor) and admission to a special Aurora afterparty. Tickets for the VIP Experience and afterparty are available at www.attpac.org/auroravip.