Noisy Glaciers

In this photo taken May 14, 2009 and provided by the University of Washington, is the deployment of a hydrophone in Icy Bay, Alaska. Glaciologist Erin Pettit began a research project to find out what calving glacier ice sounded like to a humpback whale. The sound of the ice in the water turned out to be more interesting. Acoustic research in Alaska’s Icy Bay and other glacier ice-filled waters found that the fizz created by the release of air bubbles under high pressure makes fjords with glacier icebergs the noisiest places in the ocean. (AP Photo/University of Washington, Jeffrey Nystuen)

 Talk of climate change is near constant in today's world and images of its impacts are easy to find.

The words and images almost have become white noise, said Jaelyn Quilizapa, a percussion major at Interlochen Center for the Arts. The sounds of climate change, however, are a different story, she said.

"You don't get to hear that every single day and I think that's more of a wake-up call for everyone that this is actually happening. 'Here is a sound of it happening,'" Quilizapa said. "You can see things, but it's almost like when you hear it too, it makes more real."

About 500 Interlochen students and staff on Feb. 7 gathered in Cabutti Field to perform "Transient Landscapes," an outdoor soundscape replicating the sounds of a melting glacier.

Some students, like Quilizapa, 18, played bass drums and tuned pipes and planks of wood. Others used pipes resting in water to add to the soundscape.

Then there were the "disruptions" -- audience members tapping away on planks of wood, rubbing two pieces of cardboard together, rustling plastic sheets or playing back recordings of a melting glacier on their phones.

Closing ones eyes and listening to the sounds from inside the boundaries of the soundscape, one almost could believe they were near running water.

But step outside the circle and the sound of chime-like pipes overtakes the water.

There were plenty of people chatting, but that was supposed to be part of the performance, said Jonathan Lucke, 17.

"Part of the idea was there would be bystanders not paying as much attention," the percussion major said. "In the end, that makes more sense because there are people in the real world that don't pay attention to climate change. It made it more realistic."

"Transient Landscapes" was created in 2018 by Interlochen alumnus and Grammy-award winning percussionist Matthew Duvall and award-winning composer and "eco-acoustician" Matthew Burtner.

"Transient Landscapes" doesn't specifically refer to glaciers, Duvall said. Similar pieces could be created to emulate or realize the behaviors of any natural landscape, he said.

The two began with glaciers because Burtner, an Alaska native, had field recordings of melting glaciers, Duvall said.

Those recordings were the foundation of everything else performed on Feb. 7, he said. Some sounds were literal transcriptions of the recordings.

Burtner — an Alaskan native — said he began recording the sound of his "home glaciers" in the 1990s, around the time they began retreating.

"I think of them (glaciers) as earth animals because they're like living things, even though they're not animals," Burtner said. "When they started retreating, I started recording them. I would go back every year and see that they'd retreated and record the sounds."

The piece is relevant to everyone — even those who never have heard of it or played it, Lucke said.

Both Lucke and Quilizapa said "Transient Landscapes" was an interesting way to tie climate change and world affairs into their art form.

"I think the message is just climate change and standing for climate change isn't always going outside and holding a sign up or just talking about it with one another," Quilizapa said. "I think music is a really, really great way to show how climate change can almost feel and sound."