Exploring Water, Cities, Climate, and Music in India With DJ Spooky

Vagai Dam creates a striking even if unnatural waterfall. (Photo Courtesy Paul Miller)

By Paul Miller/DJ Spooky, National Geographic Emerging Explorer

Vagai Dam creates a striking even if unnatural waterfall. (Photo courtesy Paul Miller)

I’m in India for the next couple of weeks taking a bunch of ideas about art and data to different logical extremes (view my Google Photos Storyboard). I’m working on a group of compositions about water, cities, climate change, and the evolving role of the artist and composer in a data-driven society.

How do we make a portrait of a rapidly evolving world with music? That’s a question I’m asking myself throughout this journey.

My composition is called “The Heart of a River” because rivers are networks and they amplify network effects. From the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of Mesopotamia to the Yangtze of China, from the Danube to the Thames, from the Mississippi to the Hudson, from the Amazon to the Yukon, we’ve seen over and over that where we have rivers, civilizations evolve beyond almost anything we can predict.

As I write today on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, you can feel the sense of urgency in the air. The unbearable smog of Delhi and the charnel house quality of smoke and dust here point to the lingering effects of fossil fuels and their impact on our beliefs about our ability to change society and consumer culture.

These things inform how I understand the role of song in cultural heritage and the way we think about rapid growth.

The colors stick out in a photo, but the sounds are what this trip is really about. (Photo Courtesy Paul Miller)
The colors stick out in a photo, but the sounds are what this trip is really about. (Photo courtesy Paul Miller)

Chennai
12/9/2015
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