DJ Spooky’s Terra Nova: The Antarctica Suite

This is the trailer for DJ Spooky/Paul D. Miller’s large scale multimedia performance work: an acoustic portrait of a rapidly changing continent.


The Antarctic Suite transforms Miller’s first person encounter with the harsh, dynamic landscape into multimedia portraits with music composed from the different geographies that make up the land mass. Miller’s field recordings from a portable studio, set up to capture the acoustic qualities of Antarctic ice forms, reflect a changing and even vanishing environment under duress.

Coupled with visual material from Getty Images’ vast collection, The Antarctic Suite is a seventy minute multimedia performance.

The first review I’ve seen of this ambitious DJ work comes from SkyNoise:

Though the publicity heavily emphasised the piece was “conceived, composed and performed by Paul D Miller, aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid”, the bulk of performance involves the trio of AlterEgo relentlessly and admirably ploughing through a minimal and repetitive composition. Closing my eyes, all I can think of is how much it reminds me of Philip Glass, and how little it seems to conjure up any antarctic atmosphere. 15-20 minutes into the piece, I start wondering what Spooky is actually doing on stage.

He seems perpetually to be cueing up tracks, adjusting his headphones, adjusting knobs, but nothing can be heard as a result of this, only the ongoing violin, piano and cello riffs, all generously soaked in reverb or delay.

There are a few nice musical moments, a few nice transitions, but it’s only close to the end that I can actually hear some sounds other than the instruments, short loops dropped into the mix by Spooky, that replicate the fast repetitive instrument playing. I suppose they are ‘the sounds of ice’, albeit cropped and toned with some cookie cutter template to suit the composition. Where were the sounds of creaking icebergs? Of ice and water? Of wind and vast landscape? So much for sounds of the ice continent. Or engaging with the musicians on stage. Or for interplay with the video.

I thought “Philip Glass” immediately, on seeing the promo video, too. 

If you’ve had a chance to see this performed, let me know what you think of it. 


3 thoughts on “DJ Spooky’s Terra Nova: The Antarctica Suite

  1. to be perfectly honest, it was nothing short of appalling.

    the visual element looked like it had been composed by high school students for a multimedia assignment; thrown together with a mix of “borrowed” footage, probably pinched from, some random bits of text (which were of course unreadable on one of the screens, given that it was mirrored), and a bunch of spinning graphs that looked like a powerpoint presentation gone horribly wrong.

    the music was fine, although sounded suspiciously like a remix/theft of the Qatsi trilogy soundtrack, and i’ll be damned if i can work out what spooky was actually doing on the stage. for all the knobs he twiddled and things he seemed to cue up, all i could hear was alter ego thrashing away on their strings.

    the only thing that (temporarily) masked my bitter disappointment at the show was that for a few hours i was completely surprised that such a waste of time had been submitted and accepted to the Melbourne International Arts Festival. once the shock wore off, though, I just really, really wanted to un-see what i’d just seen.

  2. listen to 'different trains' by steve reich and you'll hear that the music in this video is basically a remix of that. a very unimaginitve one.

    it seems to me dj spooky hasn't changed his ways since i last checked 8 years ago: words over substance.

    i do think it's cool though that he got others to pay for his trip to antarctica. he's doing something right.

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