U.Va. Music Professor’s Telematic Opera, ‘Auksalaq,’ Makes Its World Premiere

October 22, 2012

UPDATE, Oct. 28: Hurricane Sandy has altered plans for the preimier of "Auksalaq," but it remains on schedule. Read more here.

The University of Virginia will host part of the world premiere of “Auksalaq: A Telematic Opera,” an award-winning piece that uses networking technology to link performers and audiences around the world, on Oct. 29 at 5 p.m. in two locations on Grounds.

The opera, by U.Va. associate music professor Matthew Burtner and media artist Scott Deal, involves performers and audience members in the District of Columbia, Norway, Montreal, Alaska, New York, Charlottesville and Indianapolis. The stages are connected through advanced telematic technology, which allows performers to collaborate via the Internet in real time. 

U.Va. and Charlottesville community members will be able to watch and participate in the performance on Grounds at the OpenGrounds Corner Studio and Clemons Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Auksalaq, the Inupiat word for “melting snow/ice,” provides an in-depth journey into the vast and remote, yet rapidly changing, arctic regions of Alaska and Canada. 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 the transformation of the Far North as a result of global climate change.

An interactive audience-participation software called NOMADS, designed and built by U.Va.’s Interactive Media Research Group, enables engagement with the performance in real-time across all the stages. Audience members are encouraged to attend the concert with their mobile devices in order to participate (Android and iOS tablets and phones, or laptop computers).

In October 2011, Internet2, the nation’s most advanced networking consortium, presented the Internet2 Driving Exemplary Applications (IDEA) Award to Deal and Burtner for their creation of “Auksalaq,” which the organization described as “the single best and most important realization of meaningful opera for today’s world.”

The Washington, D.C., performance is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Phillips Collection – a Washington arts space – and U.Va. and is co-produced by the two institutions. The Phillips Collection and U.Va. initiated the partnership in 2010 and have supported “Auksalaq” throughout its development. Recognizing that connections between science and art are the building blocks of our future, and that creativity and innovation are at the heart of human curiosity and expression, this partnership exemplifies how museum-higher education collaborations can set the stage for the birth of new ideas, organizers said. The OpenGrounds initiative at U.Va. is designed to catalyze such interactions more widely.

“Auksalaq” is supported by the Office of the Vice President and Chief Information Officer, OpenGrounds, the Virginia Center for Computer Music, the Office of the Vice President for Research, Arts & Sciences Research Support, the Buckner W. Clay Endowment for the Humanities and the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts.

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