TIMARA Program Produces Striking, Unusual Cinema

Daniel Hautzinger, Staff Writer

Although it has been around for quite some time, the mention of TIMARA often draws confused looks. Everyone knows of the existence of the program, whose acronym stands for Technology in Music and Related Arts, but not many seem to understand what it involves. The screening of films by TIMARA faculty and alumni last Saturday at the newly reopened Apollo Theatre provided a vivid and immersive sample of what exactly it is that TIMARA majors do.

After a brief introduction by Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts Tom Lopez, the chair of the TIMARA Department, roaring rushes of noise ushered the audience into a world of vast soundscapes and enigmatic, beautiful and kinetic images. These are films to absorb rather than watch; they entrance the eyes, blanket the ears, and slowly expand in the mind.

Much of that engrossing quality comes from the elaborate and complex marriage of audio and visual. Saturday’s films were abstract reveries that concerned themselves with a single concept, setting as their goal not narrative but mood, focusing all elements of the piece toward achieving a specific state of mind. Tom Lopez’s Dirge for Déjà Vu, for example, featured light-saturated shots of mossy plants, pebbles and ripples unfolding in a pond with a soundtrack of mournful singing. All of this made for an intensely melancholy yet gorgeous experience.

Autarkeia Aggregatum, by Bret Battey, OC ’90, was in a similar meditative vein. Thousands of individual points spiraled and flickered across the screen, variously combining to resemble a mosaic, a pointillist painting, falling snow and blots of ink.

Other films were not traditionally beautiful but still impressive. Leif Shackelford’s, OC ’06, Bit Torrent flashed between pencil sketches of birds and a city street. Rhythmic noises matched the quick visual changes, keeping the viewer uncertain and on edge.

Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts Peter Swendsen’s a sudden change in the consistency of snow manipulated saxophone notes to create foghorns and air sirens while static and patterns flowed across the screen.

The rest of the films involved people rather than imagery. Prepare a Place, with audio by Mario Diaz de León, OC ’04, and video by artist Jay King, explored the mind of a performer (or listener) during a concert. It began with a solo violinist on a stage, and then shifted to whirling visions of a string quartet in a dark warehouse. The thumping music and epileptic visuals created an exhilarating rush that was suddenly ended by the performer returning to the stage.

Oldest among the films was Kristen Waite’s, OC ’00, Jim Movie, from 1999. A quirky and unnerving portrait of a man, it alternated between wide shots of him running to personal views of his face contorting to different genres of music.

Fields by David Bird, OC ’12, was most different from the rest of the set: an edited video of a musical composition that placed drummers 150 yards apart, demonstrating the phasing effects of the speed of sound.

An incredibly diverse program that covers a wide array of techniques and formats, as shown by these films, TIMARA is difficult to describe but certainly merits the praise and attention it receives. Even if it doesn’t make it any easier to answer the question “What is TIMARA?,” every Oberlin student should experience a TIMARA creation at some point, if only for the pure engrossment and uniqueness. Maybe it’s a good thing that question is so hard to answer.