Monday, January 5, 2015

Ablation Zone in the San Francisco Tape Music Festival Jan 10th

The Marr Ice Piedmont, Anvers Island, Antarctica

This Saturday January 10th my Antarctic piece, Ablation Zone, will be played in the San Francisco Tape Music Festival, America's only festival devoted to the performance of audio works projected in three-dimensional space. This year the festival features four distinct concerts of classic audio art and new fixed media compositions by 32 local and international composers. Hear members of the SF Tape Music Collective, along with guest composers, shape the sound live over a pristine surround system consisting of 16 high-end loudspeakers while the audience is seated in complete darkness. It's a unique opportunity to experience music forming - literally - around you.

My piece, Ablation Zone, is crafted from field recordings of the Marr Ice Piedmont (the massive glacier that enshrouds most of Anvers Island) plus sounds produced on Adélie penguin vertebrae and nesting stones. Like most glaciers along the Western Antarctica Peninsula, the Marr is shrinking, and behind Palmer Station the ice has retreated more than 1500 feet over the last 50 years. The "ablation zone" of a glacier is the area below a certain elevation where there is a net loss of ice mass due to melting, evaporation, sublimination, calving, wind scouring, and so forth. Within the Marr's ablation zone I collected field recordings of meltwater streams and crevasses full of icicles. In the ocean near the Marr's terminal ice cliffs I recorded icebergs and brash ice that it had jettisoned.

The Marr produced a beguiling array of unique sounds. Each meltwater stream bubbled, gurgled, or sputtered it's own rhythms and melodies, sometimes sounding like electronics or machinery. Icicles dripped the intricate layers of gamalan songs. Icebergs crackled and snapped like giant pop-rocks, or contained large cavities in which waves resonated. To my field recordings, full of motion and insistent energy, I added the subtle sound of polished penguin nesting stones rubbing together, and otherworldly voices produced by bowing Adélie penguin vertebrae.

For this show I won't be playing any instruments live, but I will be running the mixing board and shaping how my piece is dispersed amongst the 16 loudspeakers that surround the audience. It should be cool (pardon the pun please)!