Compositions based on climate data

So much about climate change is communicated by numbers and graphs (e.g., rising temperatures, increasing carbon dioxide levels, etc.), and often illustrated by alarming visual evidence in photos and videos. But the human spirit can be engaged on many levels. Recently, I discovered some musicians who are trying to express their concerns about climate change using their musical instruments. The source of their inspiration comes from what may seem to us as unpromising material: climate data.

Here is the first example, a composition for string quartet by Daniel Crawford: The sound of climate change from the Amazon to the Arctic.

The second example is a larger, more ambitious effort: the Climate Music Project. The Project consists of a team of composers, climate scientists, and other collaborators led by founder Stephan Crawford and his co-producer Fran Schulberg. While the Project’s compositions have been performed in public settings like Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, there aren’t any audio or video recordings available for streaming or purchase. Here’s a short video on how the music is composed.

In an interview for The Verge, Crawford explained what he hoped the Project could achieve:

When we did our premiere in 2015 at the Planetarium in Oakland, during the audience engagement section, a woman in the audience stood up and said, “You know, I was listening to the music and I was watching the years count up and I was watching the data animation and I said to myself, that’s how the music sounded when I was born. And that’s how the music sounded when my daughter was born. And that’s how the music could sound when my granddaughter might be born.” For the first time in her life, what had been a very abstract issue became suddenly very personal to her and shifted within the context of her family’s own historical arc. And for her that was very powerful. We do see that that is one of the effects of the music.

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