Arctic Rhythms: Remixing the ice

Musicians on stage

By Kasey Marshall

Executive Staff

Incorporating a fusion of graphic design, live music, geopolitics, history, environmental science, computer programming, and turntabling, Paul D. Miller (also known as DJ Spooky) performed his highly eclectic multimedia concert Arctic Rhythms in Guerry Auditorium on September 12. As described by art history Professor Thompson, DJ Spooky’s current project centers on “travel and exploration.” By aurally encoding scientific data, Arctic Rhythms allows listeners to explore the reality of climate change in Earth’s polar regions. The acoustic journey began with a more classical composition played by Sewanee’s own string quartet (featuring cellist Christine Kim, violist Jim Grosjean, and violinists Katherine Lehman and Carolyn Huebl). Following this traditional performance, DJ Spooky dove into the “conversation between instruments and software” by looping, riffing, and layering the quartet with his own disc jockeying. Using his own software, DJ Spooky made live hip hop and dubstep remixes of climate change data. In a particularly dazzling display of mathematical equations, the piece “Ice Sonification” ascribed noise and dynamic visualization to the formation of snowflakes. The relationship between classic and modern, art and science, history and current politics, vision and sound, nature and technology highlighted the connections that “make the world work” and established “historical precedence for environmental activism.” Despite the physical and cognitive distance of Antarctica, the music argued that the changes taking place there are profoundly related to everyday life, culminating in data points blaring from the speakers not only heard, but physically felt by listeners.

All of the music featured in Arctic Rhythms is available through Creative Commons on the album “Of Water and Ice.” Further demonstrating DJ Spooky’s dedication to open source music, the turntable software used during the concert can be downloaded for free on the iTunes Store, thus inviting his audience to “feel free to remix the ice.”