Front Variations

QUOIN 4 (2018)
Richard Skelton Front Variations

Worldwide coordination of glacier monitoring began in 1894 with the creation of the Commission Internationale des Glaciers (CIG), now the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), but the monitoring of individual glaciers, such as Leirufjarðarjökull in Iceland, began as early as 1840. The long-term aim of such endeavours was to gain insight into the processes of climate change.

Quoin 4 presents a combination of data sourced from the WGMS along with aerial photographs from the US Naval Oceanographic Office to highlight ice-sheet recession over the past 100 years and more. ‘Front variation’ refers to the recorded difference in position of a glacier’s front edge – a positive figure indicates glacier advance, whereas a negative figure indicates glacier retreat.

The music that accompanies this volume of Quoin was composed using only sine waves – the purest and simplest periodic oscillations or tones. These tones were then subjected to increasing amounts of feedback in order to simulate the so-called ice-albedo feedback mechanism. This is the process whereby the action of melting glaciers reduces the global surface area of ice, thereby reducing the amount of solar radiation that glaciers reflect, which in turn increases global temperatures and causes further glacial melting. Ring modulation and distortion were also used to further deteriorate the sound signal.


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