Sunday, August 13, 2006

"The Place Where You Go to Listen"

Where Geophysics Sings - A review @ Discover:

To the 285 residents of Kaktovik, a remote Eskimo village in Alaska, the unwieldy name of Naalagiagvik translates as "the place where you go to listen." It refers to a quiet stretch of snow named by the Inupiat people who live nearby. Sleepy white on the surface, the location is alive with geologic and celestial activity, including tremors, northern lights, and magnetic disturbances—a silent but pervasive bustle.

Naalagiagvik is the inspiration for The Place Where You Go to Listen, a new environmental installation by experimental composer John Luther Adams at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks. In a small white room pocked with 14 high-fidelity speakers, real-time local geologic, astronomical, and meteorologic data are fed into a computer that translates the information, using filters of Adams's creation, into sound and light. Magnetic flutters in the atmosphere, caused by the same storms that create nighttime auroras, manifest as a shimmering synthesized carillon. When the deep earth rumbles, drums ascend at a frequency that is almost too low to hear but can be felt in the gut.


I love how Adams was able to tie what the earth is doing into his artwork - so that as the earth changes - so does the art. It seems like it would be a great thing for people who work in cubicles who don't get out much - to be surrounded by something like this. I suppose it would lessen the special effect if it were at too many places - but so many people are disconnected from nature - and this seems like a way for people to connect - even from inside. (And it would be a lot more effective than the bird clocks that sing hourly - nature on a schedule).

Of course there is nothing like being there.

"Songs are thoughts which are sung out with the breath
when people let themselves be moved by a great force,
and ordinary speech no longer suffices.

When the words that we need shoot up of themselves,
we have a new song."

- Orpingalik, a Netsilik Eskimo man

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