This past Saturday, BMI composer Emer Kinsella helped bring to fruition a truly ambitious and unique immersive concert performance in downtown Culver City on the newly renovated Culver Steps. Kinsella performed her own dynamic pieces, as well as work from composers Allyson Newman, Carla Patullo, Yuichiro Oku and Justin Bell alongside the Intrinsic Strings chamber string ensemble while the contemporary movement group The Friidom danced up and down the stage of the culver city steps for an event called “Renovation.” Conceived primarily as a creative means to promote unity and new structures in a post-pandemic world, “Renovation” was a remarkable event. BMI recently caught up with Kinsella to find out more about the project. Here’s what she had to say.
How did this concert come about?
I have a passion for creating unique concert experiences with an urban landscape backdrop and finding non-traditional locations to activate spaces with new music. Back in 2019, I created the immersive site-specific experience ‘Intrinsic Strings on the Overlook,’ which took the audience up a hiking trail to various spots where they could encounter musicians along the trail and experience works by film composers performed by live strings at sunset.
The audience climbed the ‘Culver Stairs’ to reach the top of the overlook. At that time the new ‘Culver Steps’ with a very similar name was being constructed down below in Downtown Culver City and I thought that could be interesting for a future concert location. After the pandemic hit, with no concerts happening for two years, and living myself nearby in Culver City, I watched as the new plaza was built and developed over this time and became a place for people to sit outside and congregate, grab coffee and ice cream, and which is also directly facing the Culver Studios, now the new offices of Amazon Studios. This became a special spot for me to spend time and work or chill outside.
I enjoy working with concepts around transformation, and since coming out of the depths of the pandemic, I found the thread of rebuilding ourselves and our society, our values and coming together as a community is so important that I wanted to construct the concert program and concept around the 5 steps of Renovation as we reconstruct our lives and societies for a better ongoing future, one where we hold ourselves accountable and are actively a part of the conversation for our cities going forward.
I really enjoy bringing different mediums and different types of people into the same environment together to look through each other’s lenses and to find connecting threads. Coming from a background as a composer for film, media and contemporary music, a violinist and creative innovator, I wanted to combine these aspects and create a magical space for music and movement to be surrounded by the audience for an experiential immersive experience. The concert highlighted compositional works by a variety of film and media composers with narrative works written either specifically for the concert or written for a prior film project. Composers included Allyson Newman, Carla Patullo, Yuichiro Oku, Justin Bell and myself.
It’s a unique dimensional experience to bring audiences to live music and to watch live chamber string players; Mark Bassett, Hakeem Holloway, Sheng-Ching Hsu, Sasha Chandler and Jennifer Wu right there in an intimate setting. Having the opportunity to work with a collaborator of mine, The Friidom and his Epiic movement cohort of movement artists really amplified the setting, made use of the space and added to the meaning of the musical works.
I love cross-over and bringing different people together. It is something that I want to see more in our community too. To be able to tap into each other and to create something new out of bringing our mediums together.
What do you want audiences to take away from this performance?
What I want the audience to take away from this performance is a feeling of expansion, transformation and empowerment, to be part of a collective community experience at a location that can be accessed by all; both intentional audience members and passers-by and seeing how we all come from different backgrounds and places in life but can collectively experience our cities in new ways all the time. Sharing the space and reflecting on what’s possible for our communities as well as interpreting the performance and concept in very different ways through narrative art and storytelling is something that I strive for.