Music

Paul Schütze's 'The Sky Torn Apart' Serves As a Powerful Call for Preventative Climate Change Action

Paul Schütze's The Sky Torn Apart is a bold, expansive piece of isolationist environmental music.

The Sky Torn Apart
Paul Schütze

Glacial Movments

30 April 2018

Having veteran composer and producer Paul Schütze agree to write a one-off composition is something of a coup for Italian, experimental label Glacial Movements. A master of the avant-garde, Australian Schütze was a founder of the experimental band Laughing Hands and has seen his work featured in a number of international galleries and museums. Since 2016, he has worked hard to establish himself as a perfumer but jumped at the chance to work with Glacial Movements on the new piece, The Sky Torn Apart.

The fit between artist and label is an excellent one. A label that's whole raison d'etre is to promote music that considers the link between nature and humanity and Schütze who creates bold thematic soundscapes. On The Sky Torn Apart, he explores the similarities between the way human-made changes in our climate are affecting the reshaping of our planet and the apocalyptic Norse myth of Ragnarok.

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok refers to the cataclysmic events that lead up to the end of the world, where all of the gods will destroy each other in one, last, grand battle that will rip the world apart and see the world fully submerged under water. The parallels between this and current fears about impending disaster brought about by climate change are easy to see.

From the outset, water is a theme that runs throughout the album. Opening with dripping, twinkling notes that run along distant long droning notes, it evokes the sound of rivulets of water running down enormous glacial caves. Knowing the thematic idea underpinning the piece, it's easy to assume that this marks the beginnings of the flood that will eventually subsume the earth. As a result, Schütze creates a foreboding, ominous atmosphere that anticipates the drama that follows.

Soon, the repetitious drone becomes more oppressive before intermittent booms, like the crack of distant thunder, ruptures the backing before peeling off into the distance. It's as if the sea itself is being torn apart (in the story of Ragnorak, the sea does, indeed, open and an enormous serpent emerges from the depths to fight the battle). That seems to mark the tipping point, where the fate of the world is sealed in a torrent of water.

From then on the mood becomes decidedly calmer as clear, glassy sounds reverberate as if caught in an echo chamber. Schütze masterfully explores shape and depth as sounds metamorphose, seemingly occupying the space between the celestial and the worldly. As the song reaches the three-quarter mark, the steady drip that has been omnipresent becomes a steadier trickle, as if the waters are receding.

In the legend of Ragnarok, the world does eventually emerge from beneath the water, and this is reflected in the music. The mood grows markedly lighter and less claustrophobic echoing this idea of rebirth. Schütze manages to beautifully evoke the initial flourishing of new life so skillfully, that it could almost be a field recording from a lush forest after heavy rain.

The Sky Torn Apart is a bold, expansive piece of isolationist environmental music. By acknowledging that the notion of an impending apocalypse has been felt throughout history, most notably in the Nordic myth of Ragnarok, Schütze is emphasizing that today, things are different. This time the end will not come with a tumultuous battle between the gods but in a more earthly battle as we lose the battle to protect the world from ourselves. With that in mind, it serves as a powerful call for preventative action as well as a reminder of the talents of a visionary artist.

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