The Physicist and The Selkie

sound piece for Polar Sounds project

The Physicist and the Selkie

Polar Sounds is a unique project reimagining some of the little-heard sounds of the Arctic and Antarctic regions, reflecting on climate change and the evolving sounds of the polar seascapes.

It’s a collaboration between Cities and Memory, the @HIFMB_OL and the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI).

Hydrophone recordings were given to selected artists to reimagine into their own sound pieces.

Tara Downs of Miniature Museum / Radio Droogdok worked with Weddell Seal recording to create her sound piece ‘The Physicist and The Selkie’ You can listen to this piece, the original recordings and interpretations by the other sound artists on Cities and Memory Polar Sounds project page

Inspiration – and about the piece

The work is inspired by the communication of the Weddell seals who use the ice and the sea to communicate and locate themselves and each other over long distance. At the same time the meditative chanting from the Song of the Selkie enhances the beauty and poignancy of “the last great wilderness”.  Physicist Ben Keitch explains how sound propagates which is how the mysterious space sounds also find their way to Antarctica… The haunting melodies invoke the emptiness of Antarctica, but remind us this is not a lonely place but how it has always been…

There is a link between Weddells, Space weather and humans, all trying to use the best frequency to transmit along a resonant path in the medium they are in.  The Weddells find their frequency by “chirping” up and down.  The Space weather naturally gets funnelled to Antarctica, and humans have to tune their radios to the correct frequency each day to find a long-range transmission.  It all results in strange pitch explorations.

In the gallery:

Photographs of Antarctica are taken by Dr.Ben Feitch (‘the physicist’) when he was stationed in Antarctica as engineer for 18 months in 2016-2017

Publicity from Cities & Memory

& while at work on the sound by Tara