McClure makes progress on Antarctica musical composition

It’s been a few weeks now since composer and adjunct professor of English Glenn McClure set sail for icy Antarctica in order to embark on a project for the Antarctic Artists and Writers Fellowship from the National Science Foundation—one that will translate environmental and seismic sounds into musical compositions. Media Relations Director David Irwin and the Office of College Communications and Marketing hosted a Skype call with McClure on Wednesday Nov. 16, providing students with the opportunity to ask the globetrotter questions that pertained to their various ongoing research projects.

During this session, McClure discussed the progress that he has made on his project since his arrival at McMurdo Station, a high-end science and research facility in Ross Island, Antarctica. McClure has just returned from a trip to Yesterday Camp, which is the home for a community of tents, as camped out on the Ross Ice Shelf. There, he and a team of scientists lifted seismometers out of the ice in order to retrieve the data that they had been recording for two years.

McClure’s project relies on this data, which he will eventually turn into melodies and music notes. McClure has traveled back to McMurdo Station, while scientists from the University of California continue to dig up the data. He expects to retrieve all the data by mid-December.

In the meantime, McClure is keeping busy by recording environmental sounds, such as the snow crunch—something so loud that it obstructs conversation–and conversations between penguins and seals. He has also had the chance to record sounds from underneath the ice; he noted that while Antarctica is flat and unassuming on the surface, the waters beneath it are akin to New York City bustle. He hopes to incorporate these sounds into his final compositions.

McClure divulged that his final works would eventually be released online, accompanied by video and pictures from his expeditions. In addition, he will be writing a number of choir pieces, which will be distributed through his publisher.

Apart from working on his intriguing project, McClure has been having quite the time in his temporary home—getting a visit from Secretary of State John Kerry, participating in the vibrant art sphere that exists there and experiencing “crazy mind-twisting stuff, like time and space.” He has found the “terrible beauty” and atmosphere of Antarctica to be, while quite chilly, completely refreshing, explaining that the “landscape forces you to strip distractions away from your life.”

All in all, it seems that McClure is having a great and productive time 9,450 miles away in the icy tundra. “It’s a whole lot of fun—and the food is pretty good here, too,” McClure said.

McClure will be returning home just before Thanksgiving, weather permitting. To keep updated on his time in Antarctica, visit his “Music in the Ice” blog.