The musician and sound artist Joe Colley has a piece in which he puts clay in a small cup, attaches a contact microphone and pours in water. It’s less a composition than it is a recipe, but what results sonically is complex beyond anything that brief description might suggest. As the clay slowly wakes up, the creaking and cracking, the bubbling and breaking apart, sounds like a field recording of some rich, expansive rain forest. The effect could be called “magnaphonic” music, works in which the microphone is used to amplify small noises so far beyond their original scale that we can step inside of them.
What to make, then, of this recording of an iceberg, which back in late 2005, when it was provided to the press and the public by scientists in Antarctica, was likened to singing (WAV)? Now, unlike Colley’s clay (for which he has also substituted dry ice), the iceberg performance can’t be appreciated in real time. According to an article published by (abc.net.au) in Australia, the recording was sped up for human ears. Still, the density of the sound and the way it changes over time is eminently listenable. The recording and transformation were accomplished by researchers Christian Muller, Vera Schlindwein, Alfons Eckstaller and Heinrich Miller. “The tune even goes up and down,” the article quotes Schlindwein, “just like a real song.”
Please don’t mistake this for a figment of casual animism. The point here isn’t to attribute sentience to an iceberg; at best in that regard it’s an exercise in enthusiastic anthropomorphism. The point is to revel in the rich sonic attributes of nature, attributes that we can only appreciated thanks to the mediation of technology. (Found via Tim Prebble, substation.co.nz, who jokes, “that iceberg was angry!”)