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The 69°S. Soundscape | Recordings | Original Music


The 69°S. Soundscape: From live recordings to original composition

From Phantom Limb's application to the National Science Foundation
Using recording equipment in collaboration with an NSF field representative to ensure responsible sonic documentation, Sanko will capture the sounds of Antarctica's wind, ice, and fauna. Through the unpredictable and unfamiliar quality of these sounds, PLC will conceive a musical environment that is as layered as Antarctica itself.

Jessica's journal in Antarctica
February 10: We went to drop the recording device down into a pressure ridge to see what we'd get and we got more than we bargained for. Some more gorgeous seals, a pup braying away …

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Erik decribes the recordings he took in Antarctica:


Adelies -This is a recording taken on Beaufort Island, a mere five hours away from our base at McMurdo Station via icebreaker. Beaufort Island had a population of 150,000 Adelie penguins and it seems they were all standing on the beach the day we visited.


C-130 taxi - This is the airplane that flew us to the South Pole Station. Because it is so cold (-20 on this particularly balmy day) the planes never shut their engines off because the fuel and engines will freeze. This is the sound the plane made while taxiing around the station.


Mt. Erebus tremor - Although I didn't actually record this myself, it was recorded on Antarctica. We heard this sound coming out of the office of one of the glaciologists and he was kind enough to give me his collection of recordings. This is the sound of a glacier sliding down the face of Mt. Erebus (a very active volcano) sped up 100 times.


Telescope - This was recorded at the South Pole Station. It is the sound of a ten meter telescope that is documenting microwaves made 8 billion years ago around the time of the Big Bang. The sound is the hydraulic fluid that keeps the telescope alive (the scientists called it "the heartbeat" of the telescope).


Wind at Building 208 - This was the sound of a sudden storm that caused "Condition 2" weather (defined by one or more of the following conditions: wind speeds of 48-55 knots, wind chills of -75F to -100F, or visibility of less than a mile). This was recorded from the relative safety of our room

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Original Music

photo"Sound, Score, and Composition"- Phantom Limb's description of the soundscape
He will use sounds of ice dialog between host and guest. He will use sounds of ice flows, wind movement and arctic animal activity to create a framework for the composition…. In this respect the musicians will be employing the different technologies that parallel man's one hundred year relationship with Antarctic exploration from the Industrial Revolution to present.

From the National Science Foundation proposal:
The music will be composed by Sanko in collaboration with several notable sound artists, in particular the Grammy award-winning Kronos Quartet. Sanko's first priorities are to consider both the perspective of the landscape and that of its visitors: a call-and-response between host and guest.


From an interview with Erik Sanko by John Seven:
Sanko has synesthesia, a disorder in which the senses are confused, and this helped him experience Antarctica very differently from the way others might. For him, as well as other people with the condition, colors are perceived as sounds.

Kronos Quartet performs the music for the score of 69°S.

Erik on working with Kronos Quartet:
We went through a lot of different permutations. Initially there was talking about having a marionette that [Kronos Quartet] could play. They were going to play the ship originally. But we settled on this current arrangement that we have now….They are extremely generous musicians and people. A lot of working with them has been feeling very free do whatever the piece needs. They don’t have any reservations about doing anything, which is pretty unusual for a string quartet of their caliber.

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Video by Dale Fitzgerald

Video by Thom Bertelson