Looking ahead, we will be working to enable artists around the world to create their own climatemusic across musical genres for their own fan bases and communities. As we do that, we'll continue to showcase our two in-house portfolio compositions, Climate and Icarus in Flight.
Created in collaboration with The ClimateMusic Project, each composition expresses the composer's unique voice while referencing specific data sets and the latest state of climate science.
Climate is an original composition by Erik Ian Walker, in collaboration with The ClimateMusic Project. It tracks historical and projected variations in the climate system over 450 years, from 1800-2250AD.
Climate was made by identifying four key indicators and assigning each of these a musical analog:
- Carbon dioxide concentration is reflected in the tempo of the composition, with increasing amounts of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere causing the tempo to speed up.
- Near Earth atmospheric temperature is represented by pitch, where a rise in temperature translates to detuning, increased dissonance, harmonic complexity and/or a simple rise in pitch.
- Earth energy balance (the balance between incoming energy from the sun and outgoing heat from the Earth) changes are audible as distortion, ring modulation (a wobbly metallic sound), volume, and a general “unhealthy” unevenness of the atmospheric tone. The greater the imbalance, the greater the distortion and loss of natural harmonics.
- Ocean pH is represented by compositional form. As the pH in the ocean drops (becomes more acidic), the compositional form degrades.
Climate follows two possible scenarios for the future. It predominantly tracks “business as usual,” in which we do little or nothing to rein in carbon emissions. This is projected to result in an approximately 9 degree Celsius rise in global temperature and catastrophic impacts by the year 2250AD. The second scenario (which is modeled briefly beginning in the year 2150) represents a more hopeful "2 degree" scenario under which society succeeds in reining in emissions during the first half of this century.
The music you hear in this score is not generated by the climate data (sonification), but is affected, and changed, by what the data prescribe. This ‘collision’ of music (voice of humans) and data (changing nature) was a more compelling dramatic structure than sonification. Since the composition is still driven by the changes in temperature, CO2, solar energy, etc., after a certain tipping point the data takes over and becomes the generating force.
Collaborating with scientists on “Climate” was new and very interesting for me. There were many revisions, including completely changing the original theme a few times, due to the ‘destructive’ nature of the data, and the music becoming unrecognizable too fast. Working with inflexible data (Co2, temp, ocean acidity, etc.) to drive a piece of music is not common. Something you like at a certain point will be ‘blown up’ within 30 seconds! One must ‘give over’ their ego in this situation.
--Erik Ian Walker
Icarus in Flight
Icarus in Flight is an original chamber work by composer Richard Festinger in collaboration with The ClimateMusic Project.
The award-winning Telegraph Quartet performed this new work at its premiere at the Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco in June, 2018.
Icarus in Flight models three human drivers of climate change--population growth, fossil fuel use, and land-use change--over two centuries, from 1880-2080.
The work is comprised of three large sections played without pause: the first representing the years 1880 to 1945, when the data are growing slowly; the second from 1945 to 2015 when growth accelerates exponentially; and the third from 2015 to 2080.
-Population growth controls the average density of musical events over time. In this context, density means the number of musical events in a given time period.
-Carbon emissions control the frequency range of the music, from lowest to highest pitch, increasing gradually from a perfect fifth in the middle register to a span of 6.25 octaves, before collapsing to almost nothing.
-Land-use is represented by the increasing proportion of music that is played with specialized timbres (tone colors), including mainly rapid tremolo bowing, and bowing close to the bridge
In the last section, our future, the controlling data alternate between two greenhouse gas concentration scenarios developed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. These two scenarios represent our current path (RCP 8.5) and a path with mitigation action (RCP 2.6). They are named after the amount of extra solar radiation that is retained by the Earth (8.5 and 2.6 Watts/m2, respectively). The path with mitigation action would limit the temperature increase from pre-industrial levels to below 2 degrees C, while on our current path, average temperatures could rise over 5 degrees C by 2100.
The title of my new quartet offers a metaphor for the trajectory of climate change. Imprisoned by King Minos on the isle of Crete, the brilliant Athenian craftsman Daedalus fashioned wings of feathers fixed with wax for himself and his son Icarus, so to escape from the isle by flight. Daedalus warned his son against flight too low or too high, to avoid both the ladening dampness of the sea and the wax-melting heat of the sun. Elated by the thrill of flight, Icarus ignored his father’s admonitions, venturing high into an environment too warm to sustain him.