A performance by someone named DJ Spooky probably evokes an image of someone wearing giant headphones and a neon shirt cranking out some electronic beats in a crowded club. An artistic, multimedia performance that was part lecture, part turn-tabling and part classical music probably isn’t quite what the average person has in mind — but that’s exactly what Paul Miller did in Loew Auditorium on Monday evening.
Before he became DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid, Miller graduated from Bowdoin College with degrees in French literature and philosophy. A few years ago, spent time at Dartmouth as a research fellow through the Dickey Center for International Understanding, and he teamed up with the Hopkins Center to create a show called Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica.
Miller performed Terra Nova in 2009 at the College and many other locations around the country, painting a portrait Antarctica, a rapidly changing continent. Miller said he finds Antarctica such a unique place because it has no official government and is extremely environmentally fragile.
“One of the challenges we present our students is: how do we communicate our science to a broader audience?” Ross Virginia, an environmental studies professor, said in an introduction to Miller’s show. “In that vein, science and the arts are becoming more and more interconnected.”
Miller’s goal is to use music to emotionally connect people with the impacts that global warming is having on Antarctica. He wants to frame the debate on climate change using his artistic work, he said.
“The hardest thing to do is establish a scale to visualize how people’s decisions impact other places,” Miller said. “I try to show people how large-scale these changes are in a world that they haven’t even seen.”
One way Miller does this is through his musical roots by creating mixes. He developed a free iPad application called DJ Spooky Music Mixer, which is basically a digital turntable.
Miller synthesizes sound with science and math to create unique music. In simple terms, snowflakes are hexagonal in shape, and an algorithm can be constructed from this. A set of rules can then generate a complex phenomenon that can be transcribed into musical algorithms. Taken together, this makes playable music.
There were two violinists and a cellist who accompanied Miller’s mix-table app for four songs based on music from snowflakes.
This music, and much more, can be found in Miller’s new book, “The Book of Ice.” Featuring an introduction by Virginia and contributions from physicist Brian Green, the book is a multi-media and interdisciplinary study of Antarctica. “The Book of Ice” is available on Amazon, and a free sample PDF is available for download on Miller’s website.
Jennifer Davidson ’15 is an avid animal lover who can generally be found watching funny videos of cute animals online, attempting to pet every random dog she sees on campus and forcing her roommate to watch aforementioned videos with her. She’s also interested in women’s issues, sustainability and book binding.
Tags: Antarctica, Book of Ice, Paul Miller, sustainability