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Since Thomas Hill painted “Muir Glacier, 1889,” in 1889, the glacier has experienced a ruinous melt and retreat. The tidewater glacier left the water altogether by the early 1990s and continued to shrink up the valley away from Muir Inlet, until, in 2009, according to USGS, it disappeared altogether from the site where Hill painted the work. During the peak of its calving and flowing, Muir would often retreat over a mile each year. In the last two decades it retreats about six inches each day while undergoing massive thinning, indicated by two large streams of melt water owing along its east and west sides into the inlet.


This new “sound painting”, “Muir Glacier, 1889-2009,” sonifies Muir Glacier’s transformation from a tidewater to a terrestrial glacier, using measurements of the ice retreat over 120 years to modulate glacier recordings. We hear the characteristic sounds of a tidewater glacier gradually morph into the sounds of a terrestrial thinning glacier. The glacial modulation is reinforced by a corresponding musical modulation, also made using the data of the Muir Glacier retreat. The piece was composed using Google Earth and USGS data, and field recordings  created by the composers on different Alaskan glaciers over the last decade. The sound painting was commissioned by the Anchorage Museum and presented along with the original Thomas Hill painting.


Duration of the solo violin piece, “Elegy” is 4’30”.


Full duration of “Muir Glacier, 1889-2009" multichannel electronic sound installation is 26’. See the Sound Art section or contact for more information.

Elegy (Muir Glacier 1889-2009) (2017/2020)

  • Performance materials include a PDF score and an electronic track. 

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