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October 29, 2023

Interdisciplinary Brilliance Lights Up UNT
Benjamin Shirey

In an environment where the boundaries of art-making are being pushed daily, the 3rd annual Lumia Musica event at the Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater (MEIT) at the University of North Texas is a beacon for discovery and innovation. Artists from diverse backgrounds and a broad spectrum of creative aesthetics come together to create pieces culminating in an event that fosters collaboration and innovation. This year, Lumia Musica commenced on October 29th in UNT's Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater (MEIT), with works ranging from installations to mixed media pieces and live performances.

(photo above: Post-show group photo, featuring participating composers and artists)

Every fall, Lumia Musica brings together two different hubs of creatives at UNT: the New Media Cooperative from CVAD (the College of Visual Arts & Design) and the Composers Forum from the College of Music. Pairing groups of composers and artists, the newly joined collaborators have just one week to create a piece and present it in a culminating show. As preparations began ramping up for the event this year, I had the opportunity to discuss the Lumia Musica of the past year and this year with both organizations' presidents. 

Reflecting on the event's trajectory and collaboration between the two organizations, Alvin Leung, president of the Composers Forum, remarked, "I think we learn from each time and make it better. I think this time it has been even smoother than last time."

(photo above: Confluence by Agustín Alonso and Kimberly Martinez)

Lumia Music is also a significant tool to provide students with real-world experience. As students encounter challenges that require inventive solutions and critical thinking, they learn to adapt and develop collaborative skills directly applicable to a professional context. Past events have produced works that have gone on to be presented at galleries and festivals, including the Leicester Convergence in the UK.

For this reason, Lumia Music bridges the gap between classroom learning and practical industry demands, preparing students for the intricacies of their future careers. Discussing this aspect of Lumia Musica with Diana Gonzalez (President of the New Media Cooperative), "It's the foundation of what we do... Everything that we do, all of these events. That can go into your cover letter. That can go into your resume. And you can have all the technical skills you're exploring." 

(photo above: untitled.004 by Christina Vasquez, William Bender, and Mak Sabren)

Over the past decade, we have seen a growing trend towards interdisciplinary work amongst the arts. Regarding this trend, Leung remarked, "I really think that collaborative and interdisciplinary is the current and future trend for art making." This growing trend of interdisciplinary approaches transcends traditional boundaries; artists from various fields and backgrounds challenge the norms of their respective practices. Collaborative movements like Lumia Musica reflect this ever-evolving landscape of future art-making. As institutions and artists further embrace this integrative philosophy, the future of the arts looks to be a vast world of inclusive and collaborative potential.

List of works, in concert order:

Christina Vasquez, William Bender, Mak Sabren - untitled.004
Joseph Storey, Mica Alexander, Nolen Liu - tranquility | turmoil
Justin Friello, Litzy Rea Valdez, Ben Shirey - Justin Plays an Organ, Ben Plays a Bass; Litzy 
has Rendered a Sound-Responsive Video…in the Midwest 

Aidan Barboza, Nathaniel Gustafson - Abominations
Agustín Alonso, Kimberly Martinez - Confluence
Stephanie Hernandez, Jacob Lord, Paige Noelle Hoffman - < liminal
Insun Choi, Julia Caswell Freund - Espresso
Dust Bunny, Heather “Jo Jane” Pryse - Madame Eve
Cricket Wier, Isaac Morgan - collagE MOTION collapsE moVEmeNT
Clayton Graves, Michael Casiano, Noah Salem - Flowering

New Media Coop Instagram
Composers Forum Instagram

David Stout's In Their Arms We Hold the Sky and Alicia Eggert's You Are Magic, were selected as featured installations at Temple Emanu-El's sesquicentennial celebration, TE150, Light Years: An Innovative Light and Technology Experience. Light Years is the second of three cornerstone events in celebration of Temple Emanu-El’s 150-year legacy in Dallas. The temple worked with AURORA to commission original multimedia artworks, for an exclusive art event that will showcase new media art forms while celebrating their history.

In Their Arms We Hold the Sky is a panoramic video mural celebrating the Tree of Life as an archetypal expression of interconnected biodiversity. Drawing from traditional forms of narrative scrolls and epic tapestry, this poetic work evokes the wonder, fragility, and exuberance of creation itself, set in contrast to the looming shadows of environmental catastrophe. The project was created using a variety of generative digital techniques including AI image synthesis, audio-visual transcoding that turns animated imagery into sound, and interactive animation methods, which allow the artist to compose and perform audio-visual passages live in real-time. The result is a richly illuminated audio-visual experience, intended for an audience of all ages, that integrates painterly and synthetic photo-realistic imagery through a blend of graphic geometric abstraction and illustrative magic realism. Designed as a two projector, ultra-wide panorama, the 100 x 25 ft image was premiered at monumental scale on the upper wall of the Olan Sanctuary.

You Are Magic is an interactive inflatable sculpture designed to inspire wonder and evoke the power of collaboration. When two people hold hands with each person touching one of the handprint sensors, they complete an electrical circuit and the deflated sculpture comes to life, expanding into the words "You Are Magic." The sculpture fills with air, growing larger the longer participants hold hands. But as soon as they release their hands the circuit is broken, and the sculpture deflates into a crumpled pile of fabric on the ground.

November 08, 2022

Co-organized by Composers Forum and New Media Cooperative, the 2nd Lumia Musica event paired composers up with visual artists to collaborate on a work in a week. The pieces were showcased on November 8, 2022 in the Merrill Ellis Intermedia Theater (MEIT). 11 works, ranging from fixed media pieces, installations, to live performance pieces, were presented in this full-house show.

(photo above: Post-show group photo, featuring participating composers and artists)

As an event that connects composers and visual artists, Lumia Musica provides undergraduate and graduate students from the UNT Composition and New Media divisions with first-hand experience on creating collaborative intermedia works. Composer Samuel Montgomery shares his experience participating in the event:

Lumia Musica was personally a fantastic experience. I was very fortunate to collaborate with Taylor Cleveland (New Media Cooperative visiting artist, 2022/23), with whom I shared similar aesthetic interests that helped inform our creative process to create a cohesive and successful work in such a short time span. I’m thrilled that I also experienced this event as an audience member — there’s so much talent and skill between the new media students and composers here at UNT, and I’m excited to see what each of these artists do next!

(photo above: Samuel Montgomery, Taylor Cleveland – The Water Wars (IV) )

Diana Rojas, the New Media Cooperative President, shared the following statement on the show:

This year’s Lumia Musica, which featured animation, found footage, live performance, ambisonics and AI-generated imagery, displayed a wide range of talent from the College of Music and College of Visual Arts and Design. Composers and visual artists worked extremely well together and produced impressive pieces that engaged with the MEIT in creative ways. This collaboration is unlike anything offered through our courses and presents a unique opportunity to challenge yourself and your art by working with someone in another field. Members of both the New Media Cooperative and Composer’s Forum took on the challenge and created something special.

(video above: reels from Lumia Musica; video edited by Diana Rojas)

List of works, in concert order:

Heather Pryse, Marcus Arreguin – Meditation on Progress
Noah Salem, Aidan Carter – Perchance to Dream
Mak Espinosa, Kamryn Robins – More Than
Colin Stokes, Diana Gonzalez – Leid
Samuel Montgomery, Taylor Cleveland – The Water Wars (IV)
Patrick Reed, Connor Mizell – Primor D’Aion
JD Fuller, Teresita Navidad – swallowed with nothing to yell
Connor Scroggins, Cedric Steed, Ella Steed – Sure
Stephanie Hernandez, Peyton Zeavin – Icy
Sam Sanchez, Jacob Lord, Matthew Velilla – Genesis of Water
Jae-Eun Suh, Pak Hei (Alvin) Leung – from:/to: home

New Media Coop Instagram 
Composers Forum Instagram

Prof. Pedram Baldari, Assistant Professor in Studio Art at the College of Visual Arts and Design (CVAD), UNT, is our newest iARTA member.

Pedram received his first degree in Architecture, from University of Tehran, in Tehran, Iran, where he also took classes in the School of Fine Arts, which nurtured his early interest in conceptual art. Through study of art theory and history, he developed a studio practice by exploring art as a form to express and address social issues. This is characterized by one of his earlier works, Irrexxxsible, which utilizes x-ray machines as a camera to inspect what is underneath Western branded fashion products. The photographs explore the contradiction between the Iranian state’s ban on the products (referred to as “Western cultural invasion”), and Iranian teenagers’ fascination with them.

(Photos above: Irrexxxsible, X-Ray photo installation, X-Ray films and Negatoscope, 19x15x5 inches, series of 12, 2010, Iran)

Prof. Baldari then moved to the United States and received his MFA in Studio Art from Texas Tech University (2015). His more recent works seek to explore intersectionality and marginalized narratives, to connect his experience as a Kurdish-Iranian minority in Iran, with underrepresented groups, in particular, Indigenous communities, in America. His practice also reflects on issues related to immigration and marginalization. His work, Immigration Laws and How to Use Them (2019), investigates how the U.S. Immigration Policy has historically excluded racial minorities.

(Photos above: Immigration Laws and How to Use Them, 2019, Walker Art Museum)

During his previous teaching post at the University of Minnesota, Prof. Baldari developed an ongoing interest in sound. Through collaboration with musicians on the work, Variations of Sounds, Traveling Between a Barrel and a Heart (2019– ), Prof. Baldari repurposed guns as wind instruments, utilizing clarinet mouthpieces attached to rifle barrels. This project generated a deeper understanding of the musical world. He recognizes two far-ends of the music world and the art world – one being classical operas and orchestras, another being highly curated and commodified art galleries – with little conversations between each other. In this process Pedram has realized there is a middle ground, where musicians and visual artists connect with interdisciplinary approaches. As he describes, “This is, for me, a new world to explore, and that’s why I became fascinated with that conversation – how my work can evolve by being exposed to musicians who live in between music performance and visual arts.”

(Video above: Variations of Sounds, Traveling Between a Barrel and a Heart (2019– ))

Most recently Prof. Baldari has begun work with another iARTA member, Dr. Marco Buongiorno Nardelli, whom he collaborated with on Requiem Between a Barrel and a Heart (2022), an installation piece that uses FM radio transmitters and transistor radios, yarn, bullets, along with fixed media created from instrumental samples and voice recordings. The radio transmitting soundscape and the data-driven musical system echo to the aesthetics of improvisation and chance elements developed by composer John Cage. The musical sound changes upon interaction with visitors. The work utilizes instruments from Variations of Sounds, Traveling Between a Barrel and a Heart, along with recorded voices that, according to the work description, “count series of numbers in correspondence to the number of victims of gun violence and war across the globe.”

(Video above: Requiem Between a Barrel and a Heart (2022), CURRENTS NEW MEDIA FESTIVAL: CIRCUITS, Santa Fe, NM)

Pedram Baldari is an Assistant Professor in Studio Art at University of North Texas. 

He is a Kurdish-Iranian born, sculptor, architect and interdisciplinary artist, working in installation, site specific, performance art, social practice and sculpture. Pedram is based between Minneapolis, MN and Denton, TX. He has been featured in numerous national and international solo and group art exhibitions since 2010 including Victoria and Albert museum London 2012, Documenta 13th Video Import-Export program, Video Nomad Tokyo 2015, Art Basel Basel Switzerland 2014 and shown work across the U.S in museums and galleries as recent as his work at Walker Art Museum. He has participated in international residencies and group exhibitions in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Turkey, and the U.S. Prof. Baldari is the recipient of 2012 Magic of Persia and Delfina Foundation Award, Jerome Fellowship Commission for Franconia Sculpture Park 2017, Vermont Studio Center Award 2015–2020, StarDust Fund for his fellowship and art residency at Weisman Art Museum, he is awarded for 2021 spring/summer MacDowell Art Fellowship for two months Artists Residency at MacDowell Art Colony.

To find out more about Prof. Baldari’s works, visit