Listen Up: Northern Soundscapes

On view April 2 - Oct. 3, 2021

The Arctic has its own distinct rhythms. Up here, the sounds of natural forces, animals, and humans come together to create their own kind of music— soundscapes that murmur and boom, throb and hum, crack and cry, rustle and sing. Listening closely to the sounds and silences of the North opens up an intimate and resonant understanding of place.

The central experience of Listen Up is delivered through five sound “cubes” broadcasting recordings of natural and environmental sounds emanating from five locations around Alaska. Visitors can listen to these soundscapes along with new works of sound art created by artists in response to them.

Participating artists live in or are connected to Alaska and other parts of the US, Russia, Canada, and Scandinavia, and range from hip-hop beat makers to throat singers to composers. They include: Marja Ahti, Leah Beeferman, Aqqalu Berthelsen, Davyd Betchkal, Matthew Burtner, Foresteppe, Nicholas Galanin, Shawn Greenlee, Merritt Johnson, John Luther Adams, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Pamyua, Silla and Rise, Alex Somers, and Jana Winderen. Ranging from acoustic and classical to hip-hop, ambient and electronica, these artist recordings will also be available in an upcoming limited-edition release by the museum’s Unbound Records.

Ten new commissions will be debuted by internationally recognized sound artists and musicians. These sound pieces are derived from sound data gathered from across Alaska. The exhibition also highlights Anchorage Museum collection objects along with recordings of their sounds. Additional programming, performances, and temporary installations throughout the run of the exhibition present new works and ways of hearing the Northern landscape.

Ranging from acoustic and classical to hip-hop, ambient and electronica, these recordings will also be available in a limited-edition release by the Museum’s Unbound Records.

Image Credit: Finnbogi Peturss

Sound Ecology meets Contemporary Sound Art

Ten sound artists and musicians from around the Circumpolar North received a one-minute sound clip from one of five sites throughout the state, including Anchorage, Nenana, Nuiqsut, Soldotna, and Sitka, where the Anchorage Museum continuously records sound data as a part of a soundscape ecology research project.

Each soundscape recording tells a short, sonic story of a place on a specific day, time, and season. The excerpts were recorded at 9 a.m. each day January through May 2019. Each artist took a distinct approach to responding to the sound clip provided. Some incorporated an excerpt; others drew inspiration from specific sounds and rhythms for their new compositions.

Site 1: Sitka


Site 2: Soldotna


Site 3: Nenana


Site 4: Nuiqsut


Site 5: Anchorage


Rattles: Sounds from the Museum Collection

Rarely do we have the opportunity to hear objects in museums, most often we see them in casework and in frames. Played gently by Anchorage Museum Collection staff, a selection of rattles from the collection have been sonified to allow for listening. Listen to the sounds of these different rattles, recorded for this exhibition by Anchorage Museum staff.

James Schoppert rattles

These wooden mussel- and clam-shaped rattles, created by artist James Schoppert, resound with higher, sharper pitch tones when shaken. Though records do not indicate what is inside, local Indigenous scholar and musician Heidi Senungetuk suggests the contents of these rattles may be metal BBs.

Grass Rattles

These grass rattles, made by Yup’ik artists (names unknown) in the mid-20th century, create soft, low tones when shaken. The contents of these rattles may be small stones or beads. Likely designed for sale as souvenirs, the rattles are made of coiled grass, a material and process used for thousands of years by Yup’ik peoples for items such as socks and functional baskets.


Presented with support from:

Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
JL Foundation
Gregory M. Carr
The Carr Foundation

Scroll to top