Paola Prestini. Photography by Marco Valentin
by Arlan Vriens
The celebrated New York composer joins smART Magazine to discuss her latest project and the allure of multi-platform works.
“One of the main characters in the opera
is a robot that’s essentially being built through an international research culture and technology project.”
A multimedia composer
On top of her busy life as an in-demand composer, Paola Prestini is a committed collaborator and arts leader; in her capacities as Co-Founder and Artistic Director, she steers the trendy performing arts incubator National Sawdust in Brooklyn. During the uncertainty of the pandemic, she began work on Houses of Zodiac, an album of solo cello music performed by her husband, Jeffrey Zeigler. Inspired by collaborative instinct and an enviable roster of skilled colleagues, Prestini expanded the project into an interdisciplinary multi-platform work knitting together music, dance, poetry, and film. Joining smART Magazine from Rome, Prestini reflects on the value of interdisciplinary collaboration, the increasing artistic possibilities of technology, and the opportunities awaiting the performing arts in coming years.
What artistic uses of technology are catching your attention
PP: Technology and multimedia are some of my greatest passions right now! At the moment, one of the projects I'm working on is called Sensorium Ex. It's an opera, but it's also exploring multiple platforms of dissemination; it’s likewise a documentary and a community impact project. One of the main characters in the opera is a robot that’s essentially being built through an international research, culture, and technology project. Our aim is to democratize the development of inclusive voice recognition AI, placing this work at the intersection of disability and AI. One of our main goals is to build a data aggregation of atypical voice patterns. That will build my own part in the opera but will hopefully go forward as an open-source tech project that can help develop more democratized speech recognition software.
Although I’m super interested in technology, I’m personally not a technology expert. I think where my expertise lies is that I'm really good at thinking out of the box to connect, collaborate, and learn. You don't have to be an expert to begin something, but you gain expertise by going through the process, and I think that’s the beauty of what we do.
If I think about my earliest multimedia works compared to now, I think the biggest evolution has been my increasing focus on the community aspects of technology. Over the last five years, I’ve continued to refine and develop the community-building potentials of technology more and more.
Find this, and more, in the forthcoming print edition of Issue No.8.
In the meantime, checkout Issue No.7.
Issue No.7 features in-depth interview with artists and arts organizations across 10 cities.