Accepted paper:

The sonic melting: Sound art and ethnographic field recordings in an Andean glacier

Author:

Gustavo Valdivia (Johns Hopkins University)

Paper short abstract:

These recordings present a sonic narration of our encounter with the Quelccaya, the largest tropical glacier in the world, located in Peru. They are part of our collaborative project interested in establishing new approaches to questions of climate change; namely, one which is not dominated by visuality.

Paper long abstract:

In June 2014 the two of us—an anthropologist and an experimental musician- visited Quelccaya, the largest tropical glacier in the world, located in the community of Phinaya in Cuzco, Peru. The ethnographic field recordings that we include here were made with a variety of low- and hi-fi digital and analog recording devices, and present a sonic narration of our encounter with this glacier. Our recordings try to offer an alternative sensorial approach to climate change: namely, one which is not dominated by visuality. Accordingly, our work focuses on raising the complexity of the sonically dense environment of a retreating glacier: one in which several unique -micro and macro—events are occurring. Therefore, the crunches from massive ice blocks to millimetric ice crystals breaking; the splashes of water running from the glacier's base, which vary from a few drops to several cubic meters; and their reverberations with specific sections of the Quelccaya, play a central role narrating the histories of these events. As we argue, these adjacent and overlapping sonic forms, emphasized through the languages of ethnographic text and sound art, could provide new -theoretical and empirical— elements that complicate the question of scale, the limits of scientific representation, and the local and global politics of climate change. A sonic approach to glacier retreat, then, can contribute to overcome the discontinuity between the sensible and the intelligible, and enable both our understanding and experience of climate change to take on a whole new dimension.

panel WP003
Sound programme: "Utopic Dystopias: Dystopic Utopias" [Workshop]