Music has always been an effective tool to raise awareness and prompt action on important issues, and global warming is no different.
Take a listen as three recent compositions put ocean issues and climate change to music:
‘Elegy for the Arctic’
It’s a dramatic setting for a concert: a grand piano floating among ice floes. The sound of pieces of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway, can be heard falling into the sea behind renowned Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi as he premieres “Elegy for the Arctic.”
Einaudi, who has composed film and TV scores, wrote the piece to draw attention to Arctic ice, which is melting faster than anywhere on the planet. “It is important that we understand the importance of the Arctic, stop the process of destruction and protect it,” Einaudi said in a statement from Greenpeace, the environmental group that produced the video.
‘Planetary Bands, Warming World’
Students at the University of Minnesota turned 135 years of thermometer measurements into climate music for a string quartet.
“Music … acts to bridge the divide between logic and emotion,” said student Daniel Crawford, who composed “Planetary Bands, Warming World.”
This is how it works: Each instrument represents a specific part of the Northern Hemisphere. The cello, for example, matches the temperature of the equatorial zone. The pitch of each note reflects average annual temperature in that region. So a really low note on the cello means the equatorial zone was cold that year. And higher notes on the violin mean warm weather stretching across the Arctic. “You can hear how much temperatures have increased and what places have warmed the most,” he said.
“We’re trying to add another tool to the toolbox — another way to communicate these ideas to the people who might get more out of this than maps, graphs or numbers,” Crawford said.
One reviewer called it “the loveliest apocalypse in musical history.”
Alaska-based composer John Luther Adams’ work “Become Ocean” won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for music and the next year won a Grammy Award for best contemporary classical composition.
The Pulitzer jury described the piece as a “haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels.” (A two-minute excerpt is above).
The piece succeeded in getting global attention. It was a surprise when a fellow Grammy winner, pop superstar Taylor Swift, reached out. Swift was so taken with the music that she donated $50,000 to the Seattle Symphony, which originally debuted the piece.