Gwilym's goal is to explore how music can be used to communicate the implications of climate change, as art has a way of encouraging emotional responses that science alone does not. Terminal Flow is a fantastic example of putting into sound the retreat of large sheets of ice in faraway places that most people will never see, but that will eventually impact all of us. While the minimal and fragmented compositions are shaped by a process of data sonification and performed by an algorithm, the personal touch is felt in the deliberate timing and unexpected silences between notes. This data was not meant to become melody, yet when listening to "Hellstugu" it's easy to imagine it was always supposed to be expressed on a keyboard. Gwilym's method for turning ice into sound waves starts simply with a chord choice, which is detailed on his website:
To start with a chord sequence, or in some cases one chord inverted, was chosen to function as a 'sound' identifier for each glacier. This is played for four bars to establish itself as a 'hook' representing a glacier. Data from frontal variation length changes were automated to a Max for Live probability plugin, with one year of time in glacier readings being equal to half a bar of time in music. As data indicates glaciers have retreated, the probability parameters lower. This decreases the probability of notes sounding, resulting in chord sequences that represent the glaciers being pulled apart as data indicates their retreat. Consequently, the texture of the pieces and their fragmentation, show the extent to which the glaciers have retreated as a result of climate change over the time period.
There are some plans for live performance and further development, but they won't be shared until later this year. In the meantime, take a listen to Terminal Flow and learn more about its creation below.