Music in the Ice

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Liberating the Voice in Antarctica's Ice

SUNY Geneseo faculty member Glenn McClure has traveled more than 9,000 miles to the frigid climate of Antarctica for a rather extraordinary project. Working with research oceanographer Peter Bromirski and his associates from the University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, McClure will accompany the group as they collect seismic data from sensors placed on the Ross Ice Shelf. The data retrieved from the instruments will be analyzed by Bromirski and his team in an effort to better understand the Antarctic melting process, but McClure's role is an unexpected one: he will be transforming the raw data into musical compositions. In effect, giving voice to the ice. 

For a full explanation of the science behind the expedition, check out the work of Dr. Peter Bromirski.

“This is one the most exciting projects I’ve ever been associated with as a composer,” said McClure, who received the National Science Foundation Artists and Writers Fellowship for the project. “One of the things we artists can do is to explain the work of scientists to the general public. It accommodates the ability of scientists to communicate with people outside of their field. This examination of the synergies between the arts and sciences goes to the heart of a liberal arts education.”

Glenn McClure

Canada glacier in Antarctica

Geneseo students will be following McClure’s progress, and are now working on directed studies in physics, geology, mathematics and history to create a body of materials that will supplement McClure's musical work. These materials will be made available to middle and high school classrooms in the spring.

The project holds particular meaning for McClure, whose love of music was a crucial element in his personal journey to overcome stuttering, enabling him to share his thoughts and feelings in a way that was previously impossible. McClure learned to control his stuttering at age 11, and went on to build a distinguished musical career that includes compositions borne of partnerships between scientists and artists. He recently composed a work for choir and string quartet for the European Space Agency, working closely with scientists and mathematicians from the Rosetta Mission to transform orbital data into melodies and harmonies.

As the project progresses, McClure will maintain a blog on this website - so please check back for updates and stories from the field.

“Just as stuttering once silenced me and music gave me a voice, I want to give a voice to the ice of Antarctica through music.” - Glenn McClure

Photo Credits: (Top Photo) The Royal Society Range of Antarctica by Peter Rejcek, courtesy of the National Science Foundation, (Middle Left) Glenn McClure by Keith Walters, (Middle Right) Canada Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica by Elaine Hood, courtesy of the National Science Foundation.