Open Polar Sea is a digital zine about nineteenth-century polar expeditions, climate collapse, and mythology.s finished.
For a couple years, I was fairly obsessed with Alfred Stieglitz. So, locsil’s Equivalents album, a “soundtrack” to Stieglitz’s groundbreaking cloud photos, probably triggered an idea that I could conjure soundscapes that would accompany a journey to the open polar sea. To my eye, the ice images Joanne Barham contributed to the project resemble these cloud photographs.
Songs of the Humpback Whale
Judging from the YouTube comments, this 1979 National Geographic flexidisc had a significant impact on many people. There is not really a “whale angle” in the open polar sea narrative, but this record has never left the back of my mind and informed the project in ways I can’t quite explain.
Giant Squid Reappears
I considered some threads about giant deep-sea squids that polar explorers may encounter on a expedition, but those remain on the cutting room floor. They may re-emerge, so to speak, in future iterations. But this video still haunts me.
Under the Skin
Mica Levi’s Under the Skin score is often described as “unsettling” and it was an early inspiration for what i envisioned the open polar sea sound pieces to resemble.
Thomas Joshua Cooper
Cooper’s photographs are panoramic and cinematic, while Barham’s photos are macro, claustrophobic. Yet they both suggest a grand scale and sense of unfathomable vastness.
Tanya Tagaq’s Toothsayer
Indigenous people were the first arctic explorers and they played an instrumental, and often unheralded, role in polar exploration. Inuk composer, musician, and writer Tanya Tagaq was an inspiration. Her Toothsayer EP, which was composed for the London’s National Maritime Museum “Polar Worlds” exhibit, and her novel Split Tooth both informed this project.
The Revenant – Ryuichi Sakamoto / Birdman – Antonio Sánchez
When I first read In the Kingdom of Ice, it brought to mind the Ryuichi Sakamoto’s score to Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant, as well as that film’s immersive sound design. The improvisational drum score to Iñárritu’s Birdman was also an influence. My early concept for the Open Polar Sea music included drums in the style composed and played for Birdman by Antonio Sánchez.