Sonic Antarctica is an album of audio clips recorded and arranged by Andrea Polli using interviews, field recordings, and sonification of various climate data. The piece is composed and organized onto a cd where the various audio clips, ranging from intriguing penguins in the field to the ominous cracks of ice on glaciers , are ordered to create a story and experience. The layout and clip choices bring the listener into the ambiance of the harsh environment of the Antarctic while listening to relaxing and relevant conversations about the climate and its effects on the world and our connections.
Antarctica is such an expansive region and plays such a large role in the world and the climate. Despite this however, a large portion of the general public know little to nothing about the region or how much it affects the environment and the world population. The idea of the project is to take this icey region, one that had previously only been experienced and explored by scientists, and open it up to the public through sounds. This is done in order to create a sonic experience that puts the listener in a place of connection and empathy with the Antarctic to better understand its importance and influence.
Reviewer Agostino Scafidi talks about the piece in regards to the human connection that is created in the album saying
“This is a special album because not only does it contain some impressive soundscapes, but it also contains some spoken word / interview type infusions by various scientists and climate experts. The topics they discuss are very down to earth, which might surprise you coming from people of science, but this is also a preconception specifically addressed. Some people may view science in a harsh light, but the talks you hear bring forth a much more human point of view.” Scafidi, Agostino (2015, Mar) Some field recordings
While discussing albums that create a connection and work as accompaniments “A closer listen” talked about the experience of Sonic Antarctica stating
“Sonic Antarctica is an album that sounds like a soundtrack and unfurls like a film: a fluid combination of tones, field recordings and interviews with the weather station personnel of the South Pole. Polli begins with a helicopter ride and slowly descends into a world of glaciers and sub-zero readings. By the end, we’ve not only been entertained, but enlightened. “ Postrockcafe(2015, Jan) The 25 Best Winter Albums of All Time
The concept of recording field audio of a location in order to create a sense of what it is like to be there has been explored in many different manners. However, Andrea Polli takes it a step farther by not only creating a sense of what it's like to be in the Antarctic but crafting a an audio collection that connects you to location on a more human level. While listening to the album you are transported to Antarctica and once there you begin to have a conversation about the regional changes and how that affects our daily lives and the future. This dual connection that is created with the careful weaving of field recordings and interviews is what makes this piece so unique and amazing as it explores the ideas of climate change and effects on the world. Taking the entrancing field recordings and mixing them with sonified data creates an almost hypnotic state as scientist have real conversations that bring the issues surrounding climate change in the Antarctic. Bringing these ideas to the general public in this new manner creates a more human and empathetic connection with the topic, one that has never been experienced by those who have not personally visited the location. This is the purpose of the piece, to bring this information and data to the public in order to create a unique and powerful connection that imitates the connection felt when the natural wonder of the Antarctic is explored in person, a more personal connection to a region that affects the entire world in such a large way.
Chatty Maps is a project that shares in the exploration of location and sound. similar to another one of Andrea Polli’s projects, Sound Seeker which is discussed below, this project takes up the challenge of mapping a city through sound. It does this by taking data of key descriptive words of location’s sound from social media and shaping a map that expresses the volume and sense of sounds in specific locations throughout the city. Unlike Sonic Antarctica which relies on both field production and sonification of data, Chatty Maps uses collected descriptions of the sound in order to create an image of the sounds that is present in London. In both projects the idea of locational sounds are approached and show the power sound has to connect people and allow them to experience locations that they don't necessarily have access too. This connection and transportation through sound is small evidence into the power of sound and the manner it shapes our daily experiences.
Sonic Antarctica shares some concepts with previous work by Andrea Polli, specifically NYSoundmap and the Sound Seeker that it spawned. Similar to how Sonic Antarctica challenges and pushes the idea of connecting and experiencing a location through sound, Sound Seeker takes the idea into new ground by creating an interactive map of the sounds of New York. By either exploring the map or searching for specific sounds, the users can explore New York through sound. Even though the listener might not be able to physically be there , the sounds and ambiance recorded allow them to gain a sense of connection with the location and people. It is the idea of connecting people to new places and ideas through sound and sonification that both of these projects explore and discuss.