Sounds of the Antarctic to fill Moe Theater

The sounds of the Antarctic wilderness will resonate in the Christian H. Moe Theater Saturday with Sonos Antarctis.

The concert, part of the university’s “Antarctica: Imagined Geographies” series, will feature pieces by Douglas Quin, Jay Needham, Cheryl Leonard and Andrea Polli. The pieces will include both live and recorded elements.

A common thread with all the concert’s featured artists is that they have received grants from the National Science Foundation to do work in Antarctica, said organizer Jay Needham, associate professor of radio-television.

Needham said the interdisciplinary nature of the concert, bringing together scientific research with artistic expression, follows in a long tradition of the arts and sciences going hand-in-hand.

“One of the unique things about working in an interdisciplinary way is you can play the role of storyteller, educator, artist, all of these things at the same time,” he said.

Dick Kelley, coordinator of jazz studies, said he now sees how art and science can overlap.

He will play saxophone in the performance of Quin’s “Vostok Ice Memories,” which combines saxophone with field recordings Quin made and will mix live at the concert.

Quin, an associate professor of public communication at Syracuse University, said the saxophone part is based on data from ice-core samples taken in Antarctica.

Kelley said Quin wrote the music, based on temperature and carbon dioxide levels from the last several thousand years, and he took on the intimidating task of arranging it for performance.

While performing with electronic accompaniment is nothing new for him, making music based on scientific data was new with only his basic understanding.

He said he spent the last three weeks arranging the piece, all the while preparing for the Outside the Box Music Festival as well.

Luckily, the data exhibited certain patterns and a general flow that lent itself to musical interpretation, he said.

He said he divided the piece into four units based on cycles he saw in the data, and he’ll use a different saxophone for each section, he said.

Quin said his field recordings are multichannel and quadraphonic, which will be recreated with the speaker set-up in the Moe Theater.

Needham said the audience will sit in the middle of the theater and be surrounded by the sounds, which will also be the arrangement for Friday’s screening of the Antarctica documentary “Encounters at the End of the World.” Quin said he did the sound for the film.

The performance Saturday will be recorded live, but Quin and Kelley will also be going into the studio to record their piece in the morning.

As for the appeal of the Antarctic theme, Needham, who visited the continent in 2009, said its treaty-based governance could be a model for land management in the rest of the world.

Aside from that, he said it’s fascinating in that it’s an entire continent of wilderness.

Quin said the recordings he’s made there, of natural phenomena and of the native wildlife, including seals and penguins, have turned up in various parts of his career. For instance, he used seal vocalizations for the sounds of the velociraptors in the film “Jurassic Park III,” which he did its sound design.

Quin said he’s been to places around the world to do field recordings, and what sets Antarctica apart from the rest is its lack of indigenous human culture and its unique wildlife.

“It’s really one of the most incredible places on Earth,” he said.

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