Students in two Department of Art & Art History graphic design classes have created text animations for award-winning composer Lisa Bielawa’s COVID-era composition, “Broadcast from Home.” The classes were taught by Lecturer Cynthia Frank.
A 2009 Rome Prize winner in musical composition, Bielawa is a New York-based composer, producer and vocalist. Her work premiered recently at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, National Sawdust, Le Poisson Rouge and many other major venues. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and a 2020 Discovery Grant from OPERA America’s Opera Grants for Female Composers.
Begun in April 2020, “Broadcast from Home” is a large-scale participatory composition. More than 500 participants from six continents contributed written testimonies or voice recordings, providing text and melody content for the 15 completed “chapters” of Bielawa’s composition.
“Lisa is a friend of mine from Yale, and we reconnected when COVID happened,” said Frank. “During our discussion, I realized that the format of her latest project would be a perfect fit for a kinetic type project I had been looking to incorporate into the course.”
In the spring 2020 semester, each student in Frank’s Advanced Typography class animated a single line of text from Chapter 2 of “Broadcast from Home.” Frank then put them all together into a single animation. Bielawa was so pleased with their work that she commissioned five of the students to create additional animations: Jamie Ku animated text for Chapter 1; Emma Headley, Chapter 3; Vala Rizvanolli and Caylee Stark, Chapter 5; and Jessica Eppinette, Chapter 6.
Sections of “Broadcast from Home” were presented on July 16, 2020, by New York’s Guggenheim Museum as part of its Works & Process performing arts series. Headley’s and Epinnette’s animations were included in that presentation.
In the fall 2020 semester, Frank once again enlisted students’ participation. Each student in her Type II class did an entire animation, choosing Chapter 4 or Chapter 9. Bielawa selected one of each to include in her project: animation by Alina Zhupikov for Chapter 4, and animation by Aaron Young for Chapter 9.
“I wanted to reach out to you as a group and tell you how moved I was by the tremendously thoughtful work you all did with Chapters 4 and 9 of ‘Broadcast from Home,’” Bielawa wrote to the students. “I realize that these pieces touch very close to the kinds of difficult experiences we have all been going through, and I am aware of how much work went into each and every one of these. I feel incredibly honored to have been able to see my musical compositions through so many creative lenses, each of you taught me something new about what the work means.”
“Broadcast from Home” was produced in partnership with the Kaufman Music Center in New York, where Bielawa has been an artist in residence for the 2020-21 season. In December, critic Michael Brodeur of the Washington Post listed “Broadcast from Home” among the top 10 best classical music of 2020.
The project, along with the work by UNC Charlotte students, has been entered into the National Archives at the Library of Congress. See all the video animations here.