Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
John Maynard Keynes
Yesterday we visited Magdelene Fjord and checked out Gullybryn Glacier. It was a peaceful situation, made even more poignant by the fact that a polar bear left its prints in the sand facing our ship. It checked us out in the nite as we were anchored in the fjord. It’s eerie to think that we were being stalked, but hey… that’s what polar bears do. They can smell other animals’ scents up to about 20 kilometers away and focus like a laser beam on their prey. I guess the polar bear felt it would be a bit too difficult to get to our ship, so it just watched from shore. They can kill a human being with one blow, and rip you to shreds within a couple of minutes… But anyway, I digress…
Today and yesterday, several compositional ideas came to mind. I spent the bulk of 9/15/10 sitting and thinking about pattern recognition and its relationship to how environmental issues are so ambiguously and deeply complex. The basic theme of so much music that has focused on environmental issues is usually based on a metaphor – John Cage’s composition from 1948, “In A Landscape,” Debussy’s “La Mer” or Mahler’s “Das Lied Von Der Erde, ‘Song of the Earth’”, Handel’s “Water Music,” or even Yoko Ono’s song “Walking on Thin Ice” – they were all responses to metaphors – a composer’s distillation of the impressions left by their muse when they thought of the topic at hand. Recently, composers like Vincent Ho’s “Arctic Symphony” or David Rothenberg’s “Thousand Mile Song” concept that plays with recordings of whales that are the equivalent of musique concrete, John Luther Adams “Earth and The Great Weather: A Sonic Geography of the Arctic: The Place Where You Go To Listen” or Ryuichi Sakamoto’s recordings made when he was with Cape Farewell’s last voyage to the Arctic, that were entitled “Out of Noise” – all of these are materials for me to think about during this journey. Because these composers have already explored certain themes, I want to avoid what they’ve already done. So I look at stuff like James Gleick’s “Complexity” and Jules Verne’s science fiction about the North and South Poles, or biographical material like Tété Michel-Kpomassie’s “An African in Greenland.” Triangulating from that kind of expressionistic work, I look at oceanic currents, atmospheric pressure masses, ice pack density and other phenomena for inspiration.
At the moment, what I’m thinking about is ocean currents – columns, sheets of temperature differentials etc – and their relationship to the deep complexity of how energy moves around the planet and the accumulated effects that economists like to call “externalities” on the environment. The layers of deep complexity in Oceanography rival almost anything in quantum physics, or information theory, but have an immediate impact on almost every aspect of modern life. When I think about some of the explorers from the “Heroic Age” of Arctic and “Antarctic” exploration that inspired my “Terra Nova” project and my current development of my “Ice Music” project, the names Nansen, the Duke of Abruzzo, Andreé, Baldwin, Fiala, Borchgrevink, Bellinghausen, Wellman, Filchner, Shirase, Mawson, Cook, Peary, Sverrup, Henson, and others resonate for me in a way that is a good starting point, but I want to figure out some of the core issues involving the patterns holding this transformation of the Earth’s environment together.
What geologists are now calling the “Anthropocene” era (our modern era), isn’t the only era with intense carbon dioxide. The Creatceous period, from 65 million years ago that ended when an asteroid struck our planet and ended one of the highest concentrations of carbon dioxide, is usually considered the ne plus ultra of carbon dioxide in terms of parts per million in the atmosphere. OK, OK, I get that. But the basic idea here is that I’m looking at pattern recognition, and climate change literacy and starting points for my compositions on this trip. Yes, Johnannes Kepler’s essay “Six Sides of a Snowflake” is a big inspiration – looking at the almost algorithmic process of how snowflakes are generated in the atmosphere, where they achieve an almost unique structure for each individual snowflake, leads you straight to the idea that these processes can have a mathematical origin. That’s what I’m thinking about at the moment. How do you translate these phenomena into compositional elements? Each day I’ve generated a seed of a composition that I’ll expand when I get back to NY, but yesterday was particularly fruitful. Today, the ship came to Muffin Island. Translating the movement of the ice against the prow of the ship, and creating material (patterns, patterns, patterns!!!) will be the task of the next couple of days for me. Last year, working with the choreography group, Ekko Collective aka The League of Imaginary Scientists, at the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst) in Copenhagen November 11, 12, 13th of 2009 I came up with several compositions that mirrored the slow motion/time lapse of a glacier – they move in a time frame of millions of years compressed into large waveforms. The dancers moved in a wave that reflected the density of geological time, with the electronic music patterns. At The Statens Museum for Kunst, I presented a mini series of electronic music compositions that were human interpretations of geological phenomena. From this trip with Cape Farewell, I’ll probably have enough material to do several more choreographic works with them as well. More tomorrow!!BACK TO TOP