The Winter Stars

The Winter Stars

The Winter Stars recreates the landscape of the night sky during the darkest moon cycle of winter 2015-2016 in Ólafsfjörður, Iceland. Each of the 30 hours of The Winter Stars sounds the movement of the stars, clouds, aurora, and snow from a single day using field recordings, multi-tracked flutes, and noise. The stars become hundreds of flutes glissandoing across space while the snow falls with airy flute tones via electronic processing. Knitted snowballstars hang throughout the room, immersing the listener in celestial bodies and suspended snowfall. Come experience the cold winter in northern Iceland, choosing your climate according to the hour.

See it at BEAST FEAST in Birmingham UK April 27-29, 2017

Each of the 30 hours of The Winter Stars represents the sonic realization of a single graphic score photograph of the night sky. From December 11, 2015 to January 9, 2016, I, along with my partner, Dustin Donahue, went out to a spot on the beach in Ólafsfjörður, Iceland. For an hour we took long exposure photographs of the sky along with a field recording of the waves and wind crashing through the fjord. If the weather did not permit traveling to this location, snow trail photos were taken between two street lights in the main intersection of town. At the conclusion of this moon cycle, there were 30 images to translate into sound.


The collection of images contained star trails, clouds, snow trails, and the aurora, all in different combinations. The star and snow trail photographs became scores measuring the x-axis into equal minutes and the y-axis onto a specific range of flute pitches. Each individual star trail became a glissando flute line, with hundreds of glissandos completing a dense star trail score. The snow trails were also translated into individual glissandos of flute, though this time filtering airy flute sound through band-pass filters.


Unlike the star and snow trail photographs, the cloudy scores were not read so literally, but instead became a general inspiration for the mixing and modifying of the field recording into 6 different tracks. These tracks were balanced to emphasize the wind through the fjord and the rocks rolling on the beach, enhancing the experience felt while tacking the source material during the dark moon cycle.


Sometimes, the photographs captured the aurora on both the starry and cloudy nights. An aurora sound was made through filtering and editing the field recording, transforming it into a high pulsing sound. If either clouds or the aurora are present in a photograph, these specifically-made tracks are present in the hour.


The final part of the project engaged the knitting community in making “snowball stars” with me. Knitting is both a pastime of mine and of Iceland, being taught early-on in school. Two knitting circles were held in Iceland: one at the Hornbrekka Retirement Home and one at the Ólafsfjörður Public Library. Some local knitters chose to participate in their own home as well, while friends back home in southern California and my mother in Illinois also participated, creating an international knitting circle. With just over 200 snowball stars, this community-made mobile hangs in the room, visualizing the points of the stars and the suspension of the falling snow.


Special thanks is in order to Rósa Kristín Óskarsdóttir and Sharon Beetz for their significant contribution to the snowball stars!

The initial exhibition of The Winter Stars occurred from March 7-9, 2016 from 12pm-10pm during which each of the 30 hours of sound were played at UC San Diego's Experimental Theater. Visitors were encouraged to stay for awhile or come and go according to their own schedule, choosing which hours from the lunar cycle to experience. The following video and photos of this first performance were taken byJennifer Bewerse and Tina Tallon of Salt Arts Documentation.

VIDEO and PHOTOS from March 7-9, 2016 performance at UC San Diego's Experimental Theater. [Photos taken by Jennifer Bewerse and Tina Tallon.]


SCORE PHOTOGRAPH BOOK. [Photos taken by Rachel Beetz.]



Rachel Beetz - Recording, Sound/Lighting Design and Engineering

Dustin Donahue - Pure Data Programming



Stephanie Aston, Sara Ballance, Rachel Beetz, Sharon Beetz, Hrönn Hafþórsdóttir, Alda Ólfjörð Jónsdottír, Leslie Leytham, Michael Matsuno, Rósa Kristín Óskarsdóttir, Christine Tavolacci, Alda María Traustadóttir


Special Thanks To:

John & Sharon Beetz, Jennifer Bewerse, Dustin Donahue, Jessica C. Flores, John Fonville, Vilhjálmur Hróarsson, Ástriður Ískleif, Nichole Speciale, Curt Miller, Bókasafn Fjallabyggðar – Siglufirði & Olafsfirði, Hornbrekka Retirement Home, Listhús Artspace Ólafsfjörður, Ólafsfjörður Museum of Natural History, Tjarnarborg Culture House


Financial Support:

Listhús Artspace Ólafsfjörður

Dean of Arts & Humanities UC San Diego

UC San Diego Department of Music 



The Winter Stars - Scores

The Winter Stars - Scores

taken by Rachel Beetz on December 25, 2016 in Ólafsfjörður, Iceland

This photo is the musical score for the 15th hour of the sound installation. See the full set of scores HERE


The Winter Stars - Photos

The Winter Stars - Photos

Photos from installation March 7-10, 2016 can be viewed HERE.