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Auksalaq: An Alaskan Telematic Climate Change Opera

Auksalaq is the Alaskan Native Inupiat word for  melting snow and ice and is a state of the art electronic Telematic Opera, a living, breathing Tour de Force. This avant-garde musical production (http://auksalaq.org/) provides a vehicle for an expanding societal conversation. Auksalaq is a significant cultural event that marries science as the brain, art as the heart and culture as the soul in our search for awareness and sustainability.  An extraordinary video excerpt of the performance can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rc_RRpnUPkA&feature=youtu.be


The live electronic international conversations of the audiences contributed to the thought cloud as the ecological drama unfolded within us and around us at the University of Virginia OpenGrounds performance space (http://opengrounds.virginia.edu/) on October 29th.

Auksalaq pushes an imperative that is palatable, visceral, and immediate. The gathered participants were stunned, speechless, silent and still for long moments before erupting in applause. The hope, expectation and prayer resonating in many languages translates to say that Auksalaq can be a political and social driver that will accelerate response to climate disruption.

Alaskan composer Matthew Burtner (https://ccrma.stanford.edu/~mburtner/) worked for years to bring together the ideas, artists, technology, music and sounds for Auksalaq, including developing the “nomads” app available on iTunes (http://nomads.music.virginia.edu/) that linked five performance sites worldwide (Virginia, Alaska, Indiana, Montreal and Norway). Auksalaq co-creator and producer, Scott Deal (http://scottdeal.net/main/about/), mixed the audio and video from multiple sites world-wide in real time. While the opera was seen surrounded by screens, cables and computers, the composer and child of the Arctic shore wore an aura of calm and composure, yet radiated a contained enthusiasm that portends great and greater things to come from this young musical genius of interpretation.

Percussionist and UVA faculty member I-Jen Fang led the EcoSono Ensemble (http://ecosono.net/) on her toes with the unbridled enthusiasm of a dancer. At one point on stage center, she plunged her hands into ice water crystal bowls where underwater and above water microphones translated the magic created by her hands that moved through the water like birds. A ghostly, yet sublimely spiritual subaqueous luminosity, that was inspired by Sedna, the Inupiat goddess of the sea, bathed the scene and a multi-dimensional experience unfolded before our eyes and ears.

Auksalaq bears witness to a consequential step in our evolution. Will we and can we, albeit through the busyness of our daily lives, hear the message of Auksalaq and react in ways that nurture hope and optimism that humans on our home planet of earth might redirect our collision course with the climate change abyss.

Through our participation in Auksalaq, we join hands in reexamining the industrial distortion to which we have been subjected for decades and celebrate rebirth of innate awareness of the importance of the ground, sea, sky and sun which we depend upon for life.

Photography by Joe Adkins (http://jwastudio.com/) and videography by Alex Reshikov (http://www.alexreshikov.com).


  1. Garrett Burtner
    Anchorage, Alaska
    November 2, 2012, 4:21 pm

    A modern Tragedy with a Chorus that spans the globe. This is important work that happens to be beautiful.

  2. diane mcbride
    October 31, 2012, 1:06 pm

    an amazing performance and sound! well worth viewing