Director Biography – Bruce Lazarus & Robert Martens (OYSTERS!)

BRUCE LAZARUS earned his B.M. and M.M. degrees in music composition at Juilliard where he studied composition with Vincent Persichetti. Lazarus is currently in his fourth season as Music Director for the Joffrey Ballet School. He characterizes his extensive catalog of instrumental and vocal music as “diverse, concise, architectural, contemporary, and in turn meditative, energetic, humorous, moody, and exuberant.” His albums, Musical Explorations of the Messier Catalogue of Star Clusters and Nebulae, Works for Solo Piano, November Sonata, and Song of the Earth are available on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify, and his scores are published at SwirlyMusic. (BruceLazarusComposer.com)

ROBERT MARTENS teaches art in the public school system of New York City. Since graduating with degrees in art from Carnegie-Mellon University and Ohio State University he has explored the creative possibilities of glassblowing, painting, desktop publishing, environmental installation and animation.

Director Statement

“Oysters!” by composer Bruce Lazarus and animator Robert Martens is a musical and artistic reflection on the eternal theme of life, death and resurrection. This short subject was inspired by the Billion Oyster Project, an organization dedicated to reviving the oyster beds of New York Harbor after their near extinction from pollution and overfishing.

Bruce Lazarus: I had three priorities in mind while composing the soundtrack for “Oysters!”: Be simple. Be entertaining. Tell the story. I decided to go with solo piano rather than a small ensemble of instruments, and to compose only in simple, familiar musical styles which would entertain the viewer and help convey the story of death and rebirth of oysters in the New York City Harbor. Before long, I came up with a nostalgic piano rag to suggest the harbor, and a pair of Caribbean-sounding dances custom-made for choreography by the oyster world. The otherwise-immobile creatures’ first dance is simple, cheerful, naïve, while their second dance – following their rebirth – is deeper, more introverted, complex, and wise. The rebirth scene itself is expressed in the purest possible C major.

Robert Martens: Before I could begin animating sequences for “Oysters!” I had to resolve an essential issue: what should a dancing oyster look like? I didn’t want to stick on rubbery limbs as an old-time animator would have done. My solution was to regard the shells as organic abstract forms rather than anthropomorphic characters. For the opening dance I evoked the antiquity of a century ago by using the colors of faded oceanside postcards, and for the choreography I took inspiration from film musicals of the 1930s. In the celebratory finale the oysters become modern “Technicolor” abstractions, with intimations of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, swimming through the deep, blue space of a revitalized New York Harbor.

It’s hard to say who influenced who in this production, and that by itself is a testament to our partnership. This is our second collaborative project after the 2019 experimental animated short “Moving Parts.”

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