When Man “Mandy” Fang composes music, she usually has a story in mind. On Wednesday, she’ll find out if the story she put together for “Maroon” is anywhere close to the visual created for the piece by a New York-based artist and filmmaker.
The Indie Grits Festival commissioned four films to be paired with music selected by Morihiko Nakahara, the conductor of the South Carolina Philharmonic. During the production, titled Cinemovements, members of the Phil will perform as the films are screened.
“Maroon,” a 13-minute piece written in 2006, is part of a series of work Fang wrote based on colors. The song begins slowly before becoming quite rhythmic.
“Most of pieces aren’t rhythmic,” said Fang, who acknowledged bouncing to the rhythm while composing. “So this is a little different.”
It’s also dark is places.
“Because of the color,” Fang, a USC School of Music assistant professor, said. “But there is energy in the piece, in the middle section.”
The song creeped visual artist Lauren Gregory out — in a good way. Gregory, a 2006 USC graduate, said she was attracted to “Maroon.”
“I picked the piece of music that was my favorite,” she said. “It was such a suspenseful song. First time I heard it, I knew it was the one.”
Her animated response is titled “That Girl.” The main character in “That Girl” is made from Play-Doh. She’s kind of a primal cavewoman who has visited Gregory’s dreams. She’s can be beautiful — when she’s not melting, a look that can make her terrifying. A resourceful Gregory, who will be attending Cinemovements, made her own Play-Doh using flour, salt, oil and food coloring.
“So I could make it thick or kind of syrupy,” she said. “I had a lot of control over it in the end.”
The festival commissioned three other films. The other pieces Nakahara selected include “Low Country Haze” by Dan Visconti, a cinematic composer, paired with filmmaker Simon Tarr, who used archival footage from USC’s Moving Image Research Collections; Two movements from Xi Wang’s “Echo Poem Image” paired with Patrick Nugent; and “American Quartet” by Dvorak paired with Georg Kozulinski. “Maroon” is the longest piece.
“Mandy’s piece, she goes through such a wide range of moods that one could make up some kind of a story,” Nakahara said when asked what he thought “Maroon” would look like. “There’s certain moments that there is such emphasis on musical gestures. Gestures in the sense you might think in movements.
“With this Indie Grits thing, I don’t know what to expect. It’s actually a little bit scary.”
The interview, at this reporter’s request, took place before Nakahara had seen the films so he could abstractly speak. He wondered how the films would be timed — if at all — to the music. Thirteen minutes is longer than any animation Gregory has done before.
“I fell in love with the song and I wanted to generate enough footage,” she said.
Fang, who was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow, has had her work performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra New Music Group, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and Peabody Symphony Orchestra. She said “Maroon” is happy compared to her other work. Toward the end, there’s a climax and the piano is played loudly at the top register.
That could be seen as very bright. Or ominous.
“I’m very curious to see how the filmmaker reacted to the music,” said Fang, who will be at Cinemovements.
The film took two months for Gregory to make.
“I was really excited from the get go,” she said. “I was thrilled with the idea of my animation being projected with the orchestra behind it. It’s also an excuse for me to make some new work.”
Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.