“Transient Landscapes’ is a composed installation by Matthew Burtner featuring his ecoacoustic research on Alaskan glaciers. It was created for a festival of the same name presented by Matthew Duvall for the Ringling Museum in October, 2018. and using original percussion instruments designed by Duvall. The piece combines the ephemeral presence of sound with the material quality of a glacier to create a new large-scale performance installation for percussion ensemble (c. 32 performers) and 13-channel ecoacoustics. The piece transplants a sound cast of an Alaskan glacier onto the museum grounds and then maps that into music for percussion. Visitors are invited to connect to the actions of one another and the work itself by becoming nodes in the sonic glacier realization. Moving around the space, as if traversing the glacier itself, the participating public illuminate the experience of the singular and collective body, the relationship between the glacier and the human, connected across the world. This form is transient however, evaporating into silence and leaving no visible trace. The work confronts the transience of landscapes in an interconnected and human-altered world, a reality in which fossil fuels deep in the earth become atmosphere, glaciers become floodwater on the other side of the world, coasts become the sea and the sea becomes plastic. We live in an era of transient landscapes, caused by humans through methods we barely understand. Ecoacoustic research on the Alaskan glaciers form the foundation of ”Transient Landscapes”.
In addition to the performers, any attendee can participate in a performance of “Transient Landscape” by playing one of the glacier sound files from their own phone and moving around the installation. The six audio files at http://matthewburtner.com/transient-landscapes/ correspond to the six main percussionists (the players at the bass drums). To participate, start near one of those musicians and play the file corresponding to their location. For example, if you stand next to “perc 1″ in the diagram at the bottom of the website, you should play the audio file for “channel 1″. While the file is playing, move around the installation according to your own pace and path. By moving the audio, you are dislocating the spatial structure, and enacting a second order state of transience.