Auksalaq is a telematic opera for voices, instrumental ensembles, percussion quintet, computer sound and video media
The work is composed to be performed between multiple spaces across audio-video streaming technology such that remote ensembles and singers around the world play together synchronously.
Music and libretto by Matthew Burtner
Video and image media by Scott Deal with Miho Aoki, Jordan Munson, Ryota Kadjita and Maya Salganek
Chief scientist, Hajo Eicken
Auksalaq was co-created by Scott Deal and Matthew Burtner
duration is c. 1hr30′



Auksalaq, the Inupiat word for “melting snow/ice”, is an opera that provides an in-depth journey into the vast and remote, yet rapidly changing arctic regions of Alaska and Canada. Created by composer Matthew Burtner and media artist Scott Deal in collaboration with a team of scientists, visual artists and cultural leaders, the work integrates artistic expression, scientific information, and social/political commentary into an interactive, multi-dimensional collection of narratives that provide a stirring and sobering commentary on a world that is disappearing as a result of global climate change. The narrative of Auksalaq incorporates fragmented and conflicting perspectives about the state of climate change as experienced in Alaska and the Arctic. These accounts, portrayed in the form of a scientific commentary and interviews with people of the region, are woven into a story about change in the far north. The music expresses interlocking environmental forces as eco-musical forms, expressing the profound changes in the ice-flows of Arctic waters. The media presents vivid imagery of Arctic land, sea and sky, as well as scientific data and animation. An interactive audience-participation software called NOMADS enables engagement with the performance in real-time across all the stages.

While the diverse narratives are woven into a story about change in the far north, an environmental drama set at the north pole unfolds through through media onstage. Here, characters personifying wind, sun, shifting ice, and clouds portray an ecology of ephemera and transition. The multimedia evokes the alien quality of the North Pole, a place where each day lasts one year, where all directions face south, and where floating ice and clouds create a constant shift of real place.

The layers of plot interweave human social, spiritual and political narratives with ecological systems. Using science, testimonial and narrative, Auksalaq tells the story of change in the Arctic. Matthew Burtner’s score incorporates sung and spoken voices, instrumental soloists and ensembles, computer-generated sound, video, theatrical staging and movement art. Each location constitutes a layer of the multimedia opera and together they form a complex counterpoint of mixed media. The composition foregrounds “remoteness” creating a spectacle that is both complete and incomplete in each location. This perception of both embodied and disembodied place creates a unique sense of attachment and intimacy to the performance. In this way Auksalaq captures a feeling experienced by people living in the far north, a centered feeling of deep attachment to the land but also an uncomfortable sense of isolation. The people of the Arctic call this profound attachment to the land, Unganaqtuq Nuna.

“Auksalaq” excerpts from EcoSono on Vimeo.

Performance Excerpts

The following excerpts were recorded during a live performance at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC by the EcoSono Ensemble.

Technical Information 

The elements of Auksalaq, including computer music and instrumental score, photography, film, commentary, movement and audience interaction were created specifically with the intrinsic nature of the Internet in mind. Optimally the music occurs on four to six simultaneous remote stages across the Internet, each with its own audience. Each audience experiences a live event and also experiences performances in remote locations. In no single location will the audience perceive the full work. In this way the musical spatial architecture underscores the geography of interconnection.  Like an ecosystem, these musical elements create interacting layers that form to one macro-timbre. The musical pieces are thus designed to sound complete independently while transforming to rich and intricate structures.

The diagram to the left illustrates how the various elements of the opera will work together over high-bandwidth networks.  Each site performs specific works, and also has other elements, such as musicians and speakers  Performers are broadcasts to other sites, where they are also mixed in with existing media content that each site mutually possesses.  In this fashion, all four sites have access to all of the material of the opera, yet no site will have the identical performance.


Musical Score

The instrumental score is 140 pages long and involves many different types of notation depending on the ecoacoustic approach of the music. a few excerpt pages from the score are shown below. Auksalaq contains musical compositions that are also published separately, for example the Six Ecoacoustic Quintets and Iceprints. In the context of the opera, these pieces are designed to be performed simultaneously and they fit together like a puzzle, entire musical works set in counterpoint. They are also designed to support the spoken stories and scientific information, and the songs. In this way, the scored music functions like an environment for the human narratives.



Print Print Print Print Print Print Print Print Print Print Print Print Print PrintMore information is available on the Auksalaq website at

watch the full opera: “sreprise performance” following the cancelation of the opera in New York, Washington DC and Virginia. This performance was filmed live at the Philips Collection in Washington DC.

The premiere of the climate change opera “Auksalaq” (snow/ice melt) was canceled in several venues because of a massive climate change event on the US East Coast (Hurricane Sandy). During the “Auksalaq” premiere, water flooded lower Manhattan and buildings were evacuated. The venues in New York, Washington DC and Virginia were canceled even as the opera went on in Alaska, Norway, Canada and Indianapolis. This reprise performance was offered several months later and it features the EcoSono Ensemble performing from the Philips Collection in Washington DC.


purchasing note: The music and electronics/computer music software are ordered here. For rental of the video media please contact Scott Deal. For use of Auksalaq NOMADS in your performance please visit the NOMADS website.

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