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Music for a Changing Climate

Music for a Changing Climate

For the past couple of weeks, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, has taken center stage in the news. It's not too often, however, that we get to hear about how classical musicians from around the world have been responding to the climate crisis.

Earlier this year, Beethoven Orchestra Bonn was designated as a Goodwill Ambassador of UN Climate Change. Goodwill Ambassadors are appointed according to the expectation that they will use their presence and social standing to promote international awareness of UN Climate Change. The orchestra has already announced some projects it will be undertaking including  efforts to help reforest woodlands in Madagascar where natural resources are harvested to make instruments, using sustainable products during concert operations, and promoting bicycle and public transport use among its patrons.

Image credit: Mozomaniac via Wikimedia

Other music organizations from around the globe have been making their voices heard by giving climate change-themed performances. Last year, Orchestra for the Earth, which is comprised of many of the finest young musicians in the UK, gave a performance of Mozart's Serenade No.10 among the wind turbines at Delabole Wind Farm. Click here to watch a video of the performance.


Image credit: Orchestra for the Earth Facebook page

In 2019, British composer Liz Johnson wrote a contemporary choral work that contained quotes from the famous young climate activist, Greta Thunberg. The piece was performed as part of a larger work titled Gentle Flame and by the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir and Baroque Orchestra.

One of the most provocative works performed just this month, The (uncertain) Four Seasons, is Vivaldi's Four Seasons rescored to represent climate change in various cities around the globe. Each city's variation is different and was created by using a musical algorithm that incorporated modelling on predicted changes in weather patterns that will have occurred in each city by the year 2050. The results were a concert of dramatic and often startling deviations from the original harmonious works. Click here to visit The (uncertain) Four Seasons website, which allows you to listen to every one of the variations by using an interactive world map.

These are just some examples of musical works inspired by climate change. Although the climate crisis has been a source of anxiety and uncertainty about the future, it has also inspired a great deal of innovation and creativity. What is certain is that musicians across the globe have heard the call to action and they are responding in the most musically-appropriate ways possible.

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