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Think cool thoughts (Book Review)

Book of Ice
by Paul D. Miller with an introduction by Brian Greene
Mark Batty; 128 pages

ISBN: 978-1935613145

Paul D. Miller is probably best known as DJ Spooky, out electronica artist. But he’s also an eloquent author about DJing and musical aesthetics in books such as Rhythm Science and Sound Unbound. Well versed in contemporary classical music, Miller has collaborated with and remixed music by Steve Reich, Iannis Xenakis, and Terry Riley. His latest project is perhaps his most ambitious and it involves one of the longest field trips and most far flung residencies an artist can make:  a trip to Antartica.

In order to do research for Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antartica, a work commissioned by BAM for its 2009 Next Wave festival, Miller travelled to this remote region, soaking in its forbidding landscapes. Book of Ice is a companion to the Terra Nova project, a journal of the work in process. It’s also a travelogue for this most unlikely of destinations. Miller meditates on a complex array of associations  – historical, sociological, and imaginational – that humankind has with this principally uninhabited continent.

Along the way, readers are treated to a glimpse of Antartica’s fascinating past and its very uncertain and environmentally unstable future. Miller is a nimble ecological advocate, expounding upon the dangers we face from climate change – underscored by the impact it’s already had on polar ice caps – without ever allowing the book to tread too heavily. He also manages to make what might at first seem to be an unlikely pairing – that of DJ culture and Antartic exploits – cohere into an edifying and engaging read throughout.

Paul D. Miller. Photo: Mike Figgis.