About Auksalaq

Auksalaq, the Inupiat word for “melting snow/ice”, is a telematic opera that provides an in-depth journey into the vast and remote, yet rapidly changing arctic regions of Alaska and Canada. Co-created by producer-media artist Scott Deal and composer-librettist Matthew Burtner, 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.

Here is the program of performers, technicians, producers and artists involved in the world premiere of the full version of Auksalaq.

Conceived and Created by Scott Deal and Matthew Burtner
Music and Libretto: Matthew Burtner
Production and Media: Scott Deal
Media Artists
Miho Aoki, Scott Deal, Jordan Munson, Ryoto Kadjita, Maya Salganek
Science Animations
Miho Aoki, Hajo Eicken, W. Haxby, Martin Kreyscher, Stephanie Pfirman
Interviews and Commentary
Scott Deal, Jordan Munson
Additional Arctic Imagery
International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks
NOMADS: David Topper, Matthew Burtner, Steven Kemper, Paul Turowski
Backstage: Chuiyuan Meng
Interactive Video Navigation: Jordan Munson
Technology Systems:
Donald Tavel Arts and Technology Research Center, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
Chuiyuan Meng, Jordan Munson, Scott Deal
Interactive Media Research Group, University of Virginia
David Topper, Steven Kemper, Matthew Burtner, Paul Turowski
Performers by Venue
Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) and the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, Montreal Canada
McGill University Percussion Ensemble, Fabrice Marandola, Conductor
Bryan Allen, Will Bennett, Evan Bowen, Sean Donaldson, Colin Franck, Ryan Kelly, Ryan Packard, David Peretz-Larochelle, Christian Smith, Karen Yu
Harold Kilianski, Technical Manager
Julien Boissinot, Systems Manager; Yves Méthot, Electronics Coordinator; Jacqueline Bednar, Events and Administrative Coordinator; Preston Bebee, computer; Padraig Buttner-Schnirer, live sound; Zachary Hale, computer and project coordinator; Ian Hattwick, computer; Caroline Tabah, video
Grieg Academy, Bergen Norway
Bit20 Ensemble,Trond Madsen, Leader
Peter Kates, Gard Garshol, Craig Farr, Manuel Hofstätter
Technical Group
Thorolf Thuestad, Aleksander Andreassen (BEK)
Local Producer
Vegard Austli Kjøsnes
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis
Audrey Luna, Vocals; Erzsébet Gaal, Harp; Kent Hanie, Percussion
Ensemble Knox, Andrew Bliss, Director
Percussionists: Logan Ball, Ashley Holt, Daniel Ornowski, Colin Walker
Technical Group
Telematic Collective, Scott Deal, Director
Marlene Blackburn, Kent Hanie, Gayle Jones, Jon Lindenberg, Chelsea Niccum, Javier Osorio Sanchez, Beau Yoder, Weiqiang Zhao, Jordan Munson
University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks Alaska
Thom McLean, Music Director
Kathryn Hendrickson, Flute; Audra Carlson, Violin; Lisa Klaich, Flute; Jand Sandstrom, Flute; April Gillette, Clarinet; Jim Fisher, Trumpet; Mehrdad Sabri, Percussion
Support: UAF Music Department, Vince Cee, Gary Toth
Hajo Eicken, Mary Beth Leigh
Technical Group
Michael Scott, Director; Chuiyuan Meng, Eric Deal, Stephen Davis
University of Virginia, OpenGrounds Studio
EcoSono Ensemble:
Lisa Edwards-Burrs, voice; Adam Carter, cello; I-Jen Fang, percussion; John Mayhood, piano; Kelly Sulick, flute
Technical Group
David Topper, Sarah O’Halloran, Steven Kamper, Paul Turowski, Joe Adkins, Matthew Burtner, Michael McPherson, Bill Sherman, Lindsey Hepler, Jonathan Thompson, Michael Shepherd, Jacob Small, Lemon Guo, George Gleixner, Murad Sarp, , Jama Courtney, Kristina Warren, Max Tfirn