The Music of Climate Change

Here’s something to listen to over the weekend: On NPR, composer John Luther Adams explains the science and art behind his Pulitzer-winning orchestral work, Become Ocean, which I’ve listened to at least ten times in the past week.

I believe deeply in the inherent power and mystery, the imperative, for music in our lives. And it’s my hope that you can listen to this music without knowing anything about what the composer had in mind…

At the same time — and this is me talking out of the other side of my mouth — most of us these days, think a lot about the future of the present state of the Earth, the future of the human species and specifically about climate change. As I composed Become Ocean, I had in my mind and my heart this image of the melting of polar ice and the rising of the seas. All life on this Earth emerged from the ocean. If we don’t wake up and pay attention here pretty soon, we human animals may find ourselves once again becoming ocean sooner than we imagine…

And maybe that’s the Alaskan in me: 40 years living in the presence of raging wildfires and river ice breaking free in the springtime. I’ve been in touch for most of my life — pretty directly in touch — with these elemental forces that are so much bigger and more powerful, not only than I am, but than I can even imagine. And that can be both terrifying and profoundly reassuring.

Watch the performance by the Seattle Symphony:

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