Sonic explorations of the climate records captured in ice sheets and glaciers


As glaciers melt and ice sheets retreat, information about the Earth’s climate histories is also vanishing as ancient air bubbles captured in ice are released. The atmospheric archive recorded by glaciers and ice sheets provides unequivocable evidence of increased greenhouse gas emissions and thus global warming. As mountain villagers abandon their remote communities due to extreme water scarcity in the Himalayas and move to cities, environmental knowledge and practices of caring for glaciers also disappears.

This “record” and vinyl pressing gathers together material from my encounters  with scientists, ecologists, activists, communities, and folksingers. From field recordings captured at various glacial sites by researchers in Canada, Svalbard, Norway, and India to a Ladakhi folksong about mountains, rivers, and streams, these tracks take listeners into the sonic worlds of ice.

Every recording is a consequence of the moisture content, air pressure, and temperature that combine to modify the properties of sound waves as they travel through a medium. Glaciers too undergo mass balance changes due to temperature rise and precipitation seasonality, which accelerates melt by reducing surface albedo and increasing absorption of solar radiation by glaciers. Thus ice is modified in much the same way that sound is shaped by environmental factors. In a sense, these field recordings can tell us both something about the past -- the changing nature of glacial ice -- but they also carry more recent information about the conditions under which they were made. This  includes air pressure, humidity, and notably temperature. The sounds of ice are, in effect, an acoustic archive of multiple temporalities and environmental histories.

ICE RECORDS is a limited-edition vinyl LP produced by BEK Centre for Electronic Arts, Bergen in Norway and pressed at Nordso, Copenhagen in Denmark.

Purchase the LP here

PDF of album insert︎︎︎

EXHIBITIONS Wet Dreams, Bienal de Diseño y Arquitectura, Madrid, MAYRIT (3 March - 25 August 2024)

Postscript of Silence, Ming Contemporary Art Museum, Shanghai (4 Nov 2023 - 25 February 2024)

The Year’s Best Winter Music, 7 December 2023

A Closer Listen, 11 April 2023

The Poignant Music of Melting Ice: have a Listen, Grayson Haver Currin, New York Times (16 March 2023)

Listening Session, Luleå Biennal, Sweden (2022)

BEK Centre for Electronic Arts (2022)

A note about the LP

Record albums are material objects whose time is now largely past and so it seemed particularly appropriate to use this older form of analogue media when documenting the material remains of the planet’s ice. Moreover, until the 1930s, meteorological measurements of temperature and air pressure involved the use of aerial recording devices, which made “soundings” or tracings of the atmosphere by means of a stylus on a medium. These high altitude instruments known as “registering sondes” were deployed by kites and then balloons but their retrieval proved particularly difficult in the Arctic. The invention and use of radio solved this problem and today balloon-borne radiosondes are launched daily at several hundred stations worldwide (Global Radiosonde Network). 

Much like the cryospheric environments the album seeks to archive, each time the crystalline stylus of the turntable moves across the surface of this record, its brings about incremental material transformations that modify the quality of the recordings -- dynamic changes analogous to the ways in which frozen matter fractures and melts to release water and air.  As the album plays over time rushing liquid sounds will give way to crackling pops and granular fissures -- the acoustic expressions of climate records scratched deep into the Earth’s icy grooves.

SIDE ONE comprised of field recordings captured at various glaciers as well reflections from those living on ice.

SIDE TWO original score composed by musician Mohamad Safa for the film Svalbard Arctic Archipelago realised by Susan Schuppli in 2020.

Audio installation in Wet Dreams, MAYRIT 2024, Madrid Biennial of Design and Architecture, 2024 and in  “Postscript on Silence” at McaM, Shanghai, 2023.