National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Tatiana Pentes

Strange Cities: A Musical CD-Rom

Strange Cities is an experimental interactive multimedia work authored for CD-Rom release and exhibition. Through the disclosure of evidence, Sasha dreams, discovers, remembers the exilic identity of her grandparents Xenia and Sergei Ermolaeff (a composer and orchestra leader) in fragments and traces of their music, memories, personal effects and photographs, in their struggle to survive the Russian and Chinese Communist Revolutions. The inspiration for the work is a tune of the same name - a musical illustration, an imaginary vision of old Shanghai, Chinese metropolis, and International Settlement, conjuring mythic, filmic, musical and personal images of the city port.

The Strange Cities musical score written by Alexander Vertinsky, Serge Ermoll and Ira Bloch, was first performed by a jazz orchestra of White Russian emigres in the cabarets of the International Settlement of Shanghai, China in the 1930's and 40's. Strange Cities draws upon the legacy of the Shanghai milieu, the Chinese gangster film, a musical caberet genre, orientalist erotic literature, intigue novels, and the films of Josef von Sternberg. Coined capital of the international underworld, the city of Shanghai became a seductively strange locale symbolized in the Western imagination, in reality the city was most often the final port of call for political refugees.

Strange Cities experiments with performance, sound, image and text and their dramatic representation in the interactive environment. Providing a challenging approach to traditional modes of story-telling and music in the interface design, the user is provoked to discover the Strange Cities tune in the graphic portrayal of its musical script, sonic perception of it vocal lyric, and orchestration through user interactivity. The musical motif is symbolic of the way in which the multimedia artist assembles a range of media with the software tools, just as the composer arranges musical notes on the stave and the conductor orchestrates - like music, interactive multimedia is a time based medium, where events and actions upon those events take place in a flow of divergent temporal sequences.

Tatiana Pentes graduated from the College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, (1995) with Master of Art (Media Arts : Film, Video, Sound and Multimedia). Strange Cities CD-Rom won Best Innovative/Artistic multimedia category, 2000 ATOM AWARDS, Australia; was promoted at the New Talent Pavilion, MILIA GAMES '99, Multimedia Festival, Cannes, France; exhibited in the 1999 EXPERIMENTA CD-Rom Exhibition, Australia, and dLux media arts, 99, Artspace, Sydney Film Festival, (+ touring). The artist was successful in attaining an Australian Film Commission Multimedia Program of Assistance in January 1997, to develop an interactive script for the Strange Cities CD-Rom, and June 1997 received Production Funding to complete the project. The title was launched at SCA Gallery, Sydney College of the Arts, October 1999.

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops