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Sounding the Anthropocene in the Arctic Ocean: toward a more-than-human music

Authors: Christopher McAteer*, York University, Toronto
Topics: Anthropocene
Keywords: ocean, Anthropocene, Circumpolar North, Arctic, sound, music
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Can we hear the Anthropocene in the ocean?

During the summer of 2019, I composed a new work for euphonium, tuba, and electronics that asks how we situate the hearing and noisemaking human subject in the sound-world of the ocean. Composed for the Toronto Creative Music Lab, 'the gut of the sea' features a languorous brass duo that courses through a dense ambient soundscape of deep ocean currents, calving icebergs, and blue whale songs, blurring the lines between human music and non-human sound. Using recordings of whales from deep sea hydrophone arrays, microphones bored into icebergs, and recordings of melting glaciers, I created a work that submerges the sound of the brass instruments within strange and morphing sounds of the Arctic Ocean.

'the gut of the sea' is a piece of research-creation that brings together my background as a composer and my current PhD studies into the politics and aesthetics of the Circumpolar North. I will present a recording of the work along with a paper relating the piece to the oceanic politics of the Anthropocene. I also wish to discuss two broader questions about music in the Anthropocene: what will the death of music sound like? Can we imagine the sounds of the ocean as music? What I really mean to ask is: does the ocean sing? I am seeking insight into the preconditions for more-than-human and posthuman music, which I hope may hold insight into how musicians can create truly ecological music.

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