Irene Rible (FMA Admin)
Irene_Rible on 10/18/2013 at 06:15AM
In 2007 electronic music producer DJ Spooky (né Paul D. Miller) traveled to Antartica to obtain field recordings of the sounds of melting ice and climate change - an expedition that birthed the multi-media performance Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica, the book and digital download The Book of Ice: A Manifesto for the People's Republic of Antarctica, and the record Of Water and Ice, released as this remixable CC-licensed album. Like a sonic geologist, Miller samples Antarctica like a giant record of archived source material. The sounds of shifting glaciers, crunching ice, powerful winds, echo chambers, waterfalls, and even penguins intertwine with symphonic interpretations of water and ice with the results sounding closer to a cinematic Phillip Glass score or a Boards of Canada retro-futurism piece than a hip-hop album.
The project started several years ago as the DJ's response to growing environmental concerns and a need to bring climate change closer to home - in Miller's case, the metropolis of New York City. Unlike acoustic instruments or folk genres, the relationship between hip-hop and nature is harder to connect as we usually don't see parallels between the urban, manmade terrains of electronically produced beats and the natural environs of remote locations. While the harshness of urban life is rarely interpreted as part of the natural world, on this album DJ Spooky blurs the arbitrary lines of organic and inorganic and finds unusual analogies between hip-hop and nature, bringing to mind the metaphorical obsession with the coolness of ice in urban culture (Iceberg Slim, Ice-T, Ice Cube, etc.). Although strings and other "natural" instruments are still employed, Miller connects through the beats that are created to mimic algorithms found in nature. The geometric structure's of the molecules in ice and water as well as the mathematical equations of climate change data form the basis of Miller's compositions. The live accompaniment to the album includes large projected screens of icebergs shifting, melting and in flux, all part of Miller's efforts to bring the climate crisis into the forefront of our consciousness.
Released as a CC-licensed open source album with Miller encouraging listeners to remix tracks, the album reflects the utopian potential of Antarctica on a social and political scale. Miller's Book of Ice is a combination of essays, photography, and graphic design, including reports from his own travels, early photographs from the first Antarctic expeditions, and a series of faux-propoganda posters declaring the continent as "The People's Republic of Antarctica". Miller chronicles both the geological and political history of Antarctica, examining the Antarctica Treaty signed in 1959 forbidding any military usage of the land or any claim to ownership. Pristine and nearly untouched by human presence, the treaty ensured the continent "shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes". Subsequently, Antarctica is geographically "the commons" of the world, shared by all nations for the pursuit of science and discovery. With eons of time preserved in its ancient ice, Antarctica also serves as a collective memory of the earth we all share.
DJ Spooky continues to explore ways of incorporating music into the dialogue for eco-consciousness as the founder of The Vanuatu Pacifica Project, an art retreat and sustainable living community located in the country of Vanuatu in the South Pacific islands. Since the island is experiencing increasing urbanization, the foundation and art center fosters a conversation with the islanders via art, music, and performance regarding traditional practices and sustainable energy solutions as a way to help them with the transition from a subsistence economy to a more modern way of life. Spooky also continues to follow-up his Antarctica work, more recently documenting his time in Cape Farewell, Greenland with the Arctic Rhythms/Ice Music project. Very cool.