Question: What are the origins of "Terra Nova," your
What I wanted to try and figure out was, okay, in contemporary 21st
century life the alienation between the self and the land around you or
the self and even the urban landscape. You name it. Most people walk
around with headphones on. They’re barely encountering or dealing with
their fellow person, or if they’re in a car they’re in this kind of
cocoon, stuck in suburban rush hour traffic or something. The
landscape of their current experience is just really compartmentalized.
And what I wanted to do with Antarctica was say let’s hit the
reset button on that and see what happens to your creative process.
Let’s go to the most remote place that you can imagine, set up a studio
and see what music comes out of it. So I took a studio down to several
of the main ice fields, and the basic idea was to give myself four weeks
in these ice fields to create a new work and see what happens. And, you
know, it was really important to me to kind of think about the urban
landscape on one hand versus this hyper-abstract ice landscape
on the other.
Antarctica, one of the things that was so
remarkable about it was that the ice itself is a kind of pure geometry,
so say, for example, if I was facing someone wearing I don’t know, a Joy
Division t-shirt with the mountains on it or something like that...
Seeing that as a computer abstraction versus actually going to these
continents and seeing a 40 mile chunk of ice break off that is the size
of mountains the sense of scale was just awe-inspiring. I mean just…
I remember one time it took us several hours to walk out into a major
glacier field off the Weddell Ice Sea Shelf, all right, so this is
Antarctic summer, if you fall in the water you die in about two
minutes, so you’re walking, the ice is creaking, the landscape is like
subtly you know shifting and if anyone out there has ever been in an
earthquake this is like kind of a slow motion earthquake, but the land
is shifting and groaning and creaking and you know if you ever walked
on ice and you’re like whoa, you could fall through. It really you
know puts you in that for lack of better word, very cautious
mentality. So the physicality of that and the just the sheer lack of
urban noise and machinery—just the wind, the water and your breath,
you know that kind of thing—it was pure poetry and you know I
treasure that. It was just… I can only wonder what astronauts must
feel like or something like that when you’re really in the space of
silence and you are feeling and breathing in a way that you’re really
aware of your muscle and bone and the breath and the body and the
movement and all of those things that just you take for granted in the
I felt like on one
hand the clarity of thought was amazing, but on the other we went
during Antarctic summer, so the sun didn’t set the whole time we were
there. It was permanent afternoon. And when I say permanent afternoon,
you know, I’m talking like crystal clear, crispy blue sky. All the
sudden you didn’t need to sleep as much because it just was difficult.
And how that translated into my creative process I still am not quite
sure, but it made my relationship to sleep a kind of abstract you know
bizarre… I can't put my finger on it, but I ended up
dreaming very intense dreams because I only needed about four hours of
sleep. Meanwhile, we’d take you know four to eight hours hikes way out
into these you know kind of glaciers and so on you know all day and you
come back and you’d be tired and you still couldn’t sleep because the
sun was up and it felt like you know it’s like two in the afternoon or
something, even if it was midnight. So, yeah, quirky. Sleep is crucial
and I tend to find when the sun is shining I find it much more
difficult to get that sense of sleep.
the piece classical?
What I’m going for with the string arrangements for my Antarctic
symphony is a pun here. On one hand you have a string quartet, which
is not a symphony. On the other hand is you have me sampling them and
making it sound like there is many more people playing, so the whole
notion of, kind of, sampling applied to classical music is very
intriguing to me because composers throughout history have borrowed
motifs and quotes from one another. So Bach, Beethoven, Duke Ellington,
Thelonius Monk, these are all people who would sort of rearrange or
take riffs from people. Same thing with rock, if you look at the
Rolling Stones doing a cover of Otis Redding or you know if you look at
literature James Joyce is pulling fragments of text from other people.
So the Antarctic symphony has a geometric relationship to the
landscape. It’s saying that this landscape and the minimal kind of, you
know I’m talking like seeing ice, is visually kind of eerily minimal.
But there is a complexity and layering that goes on with this kind of
thing, so the music is slightly repetitive and when I say repetitive
it’s in the same tradition as people like Steve Reich or Erik Satie or
even WC. So what I wanted to do is kind of invoke that and then dive
into that kind of repetition as a DJ thing because DJing you
hear beats, like "boom, boom, boom, bap, bap." You know hip hop, house,
techno. So how do you translate between those electronic motifs and
the motifs of the landscape itself? That is what I wanted to go for.
Question: What do you want people to get out of it?
Antarctica is one of the most remote and beautiful places on earth. I
don’t think that everyone should go there. I also think that we need
to respect it as a kind of a national park for the planet. It
should be you know put in parentheses. You know, in the sentence of
humanity this place needs to be a parentheses. And when I say
parentheses I mean I’m talking like you go around it. Leave it alone.
Let it exist. And what I want people to see with this
film is not only a respect for this place from the bottom of my heart.
I’m talking like just the beauty, but at the same time to get people to
realize that we should treasure it. Maybe visualize it, but leave it
alone. And it’s… there is a sense of awe with these huge landscapes and
open spaces. Maybe someone living out in the American deep Midwest
desert can imagine the same thing, or somebody living in Namibia or the
Arctic is very different... but yeah, just awe of the landscape. I know
that sounds like nerdy and corny and stuff like that, but you know let
it be nerdy and corny. It’s a beautiful place. I could just sit on an
ice glacier and just watch the land for like days, months, years.
Recorded on April 8, 2010