The sight of ice fissuring underfoot, accompanied by the sound of cracking plates and dripping water, is a solid indication that danger may be afoot. In hopes of capturing the essence of the dying Swiss Lantä glacier, Julie Calfee lived in its icy surroundings to produce a requiem for the melting ice mass. Presented as a box set containing a hardcover photobook and a 12” vinyl record, the artist invites us into a multisensory experience of the life and impending death of an enormous European glacier.
The book is large and hefty, the breadth and width the same as the accompanying 12” vinyl record (30cm x 30cm), with the thickness of 112 pages bound in a hard cover. The size and weight impart the images inside with a heavier significance. The photographs are grainy, black and white, seductive in a textured manner. Undetermined whether they are close-ups or wide shots, the photos portraying icescapes drive a feeling that is cold, wet, damp, and gritty with sharp crystalline edges. The evident danger that we can read from them is not about our own mundane fear of falling through the cracks of the glacier; rather, we are lead to an awareness of the glacier itself, and how its transformation to water will impact the earth’s atmosphere.
The recording accompanying the photobook allow the reader to discover and observe the glacier’s inner mutations taking place, from the gentle and repetitive pitter-patter of melting ice dripping to a surface below, to the deep hammering bass that echoes the flow of water far within its vast caverns. The soundscapes are presented on heavy vinyl pressed at 45 rpm for maximum groove width, allowing for deeper bass and longer lasting treble. Like the mass of the book, the vinyl format and fast rotation speed facilitates the deep drum-like pounding of dripping water and the warm subtlety of a running stream across an icy surface. Each side of the record runs approximately 10 minutes, seemingly a good length to absorb one or two of the photographs. The sounds were recorded by Calfee during her 2 year pilgrimage and edited and mastered by Christoph Grote-Beverborg into a free flowing rhythmic music concrete composition.
Combining sound and visuals, Calfee succeeds at evoking the invisible energies flowing through nature. Bringing together vinyl and paper, Calfee preserves the last universal moments of an environment never to return.
A Glacier's Requiem is available from publisher Kehrer Verlag.