10 Big Ideas From DJ Spooky’s ‘The Book of Ice’

Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky, marries landscape and sound in a unique and deeply creative engagement with Antarctica.

It is difficult not to be inspired by Paul Miller’s book (aka DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid), which was commissioned by Brooklyn’s Music Academy for their annual Next Wave Festival. The Book of Ice is a deeply engaging visual and textual expression of Antarctica’s existence and its current crisis. It takes into consideration the land’s history, hip hop, DJ culture, art movements, composers, advertising, literature on exploration in the Antarctic, and a slew of other cultural phenomena.

The book provides a keen reflection of climate change and delves into Paul Miller’s thought process. Less typical is Paul Miller’s creative strategies and how he addresses Antarctica’s spirit via propaganda posters, vintage photography, a multimedia performance, and interviews, some of which are displayed below.

Miller’s narrative has a voice that is both intimate and academic. Here are some key quotes from the book that contain a few of the overarching ideas to give you a taste of the book’s tone and content:

1. Applying Pattern Recognition: I wanted to take the ‘urban’ concept of repetition and apply it to a different landscape, and see what would pop out of the collision. After all, music is patterns. And so is landscape. The common denominator here is pattern recognition. And that’s what brings me to Antartica… Terra Nova looks at the Antarctica terrain not only through recordings that I made while I was in Antarctica for four weeks in 2008, but through the prism of how music can interpret some of the political and environmental issues facing the continent.

2. Ice as Inspiration for Music: My concern here is how do we make music out of [ice], how do we thaw the process, thaw people out, and see the paradox of hyperconsumerism that this celebrates, while at the same time tying the conceptual issues of sound and contemporary art.

3. The Semiotics of Geography: Today, concepts like ‘land’ and ‘territory’ are becoming more and more abstract – the internet has radically changed the way we relate to both concepts… Antarctica was the blank space at the edge of the imperial map of competition amongst the great powers.

4. How Landscapes = Music: How do we interpret landscape in the form of song? Along with Anthony Braxton’s symbol systems, I wanted to think the digital effects of the material I created as an update on both ways of thinking about sound and landscape. The Antarctic landscape is defined by geometry, rupture, and massive complexity.

5. Recognizing the Importance of Corporations: What if the nation state went away? What would be the point of looking at the state as a kind of generative architecture? Who would be commissioning the designs, who would be fostering the arts? The answer: corporations.

6. On Multiculturalism and Digital Technology: I have a degree of comfort with new places in this hyper-turbulent and digitally abstract contemporary life. Life is hybrid and always has been. It’s just that digital media is making us realize that it’s not about the ‘end of western culture’ because of multiculturalism. It’s actually giving Western culture a place in whatever else has been going on… I really think that distinctions that defined most of the twentieth century are almost gone.

7. On Afrofuturism and Inequality: Forget the idea of ‘permanent underclass’ that people like Greg Tate (no disrespect) kept pushing. Forget the idea that blacks are outside of any system – we are the system.

8. On Ideological Conflict: The revolution for the US after the fall of the Berlin Wall was untrammeled capitalism… the only competing ideology at this point is radical Islam. I’m not so sure that people would like to embrace Sharia economics, but if they at the Middle East, there’s lots of solid banking going on (unlike Wall Street recently).

9. On the Art World: My books, art shows, and exhibitions re driven by the obsession I have with saying that multiculturalism, market forces, and the basic fabric of the Enlightenment are interconnected… I am always astounded at how little the art world understands the kind of cultural economy that DJ culture emerges from.

10. The 20th Century’s Obsession with ‘Staying on Message’: Alexander Rodchenko said in 1921 that he ‘reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue, and yellow,’ and affirmed, ‘this is the end of painting.’ What a great statement!

You can purchase your copy of The Book of Ice on Amazon.

DJ Spooky : That Subliminal Kid

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