Sonic Antarctica

Alyssa Perez

When most people picture Antarctica, on the few occasions that they even think about that frozen continent, they probably think of a bare, eerily silent, and unforgivable landscape. Andrea Polli, on the other hand, pictures a land of mystery and sound as well as a saving grace for atmospheric scientists all over the world.

Polli, the Director of the Integrated Media Arts MFA Program at Hunter College, recently was on the Colgate campus where she gave showed a screening of her latest piece data and media arts piece, “Sonic Antarctica.”

As multiple projectors and television screens played footage of the Antarctic landscape and the scientists working in such a landscape, Polli played numerous and varied audio clips that illustrate the unusual sort of sound-scape that can be found in such a locale. As she transferred from audio recording of the various forms of transportation used in the area (helicopters and planes) to the sounds of nature (glaciers melting in the summer sun, emperor penguins and elephant seals) she eventually revealed the sounds of the earth itself through a process called sonification.

“[Sonification is] when and energy pulse is just shifted into an audible range… creating harmonic seismic vibration sounds,” Polli said, narrating to the audience.

These sonifications illustrate the sounds of seismic tremors deep within the earth itself and aid scientists in understanding the patters of the waves and tremors beneath the earth. As the evening ended Polli left a sonification recording of a rare earthquake in Antarctica playing, as viewers trailed out of the room the sound vibrations followed, shaking even the floor with intensity.