• Responses in Music to Climate Change
  • Oct. 4, 2021
  • Nicolas Donin (conférencier)

Colloque international en ligne organisé par le Barry S. Brook Center for Music Research and Documentation (4-8 octobre 2021) :
"The deleterious effects of anthropogenic climate change continue to shape music making in a post-industrial, global society. Indigenous communities—those typically least responsible for the carbon emissions that have contributed to global warming—face the elimination or depletion of natural resources necessary for their musical practices and traditions. Composers of art music, many compelled to bear witness to our current times and bring awareness to threatened ecosystems, draw sound material from endangered environmental sources. Popular music, too, continues to respond through concerts, songs that thematize the environment, and celebrity endorsements for protection measures. Across all forms of music making, discourses of preservation, sustainability, visibility, and action are pervasive.

This conference collects and shares research on music’s place within the Anthropocene from a wide range of perspectives. Originally scheduled for April 2020, the current reimagining of this event is itself an environmental response and testament to human perseverance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrival of COVID-19 presents an important context within which to confront climate change issues, and this context will be directly addressed here, in Responses in Music to Climate Change."

Intervention de Nicolas Donin :

"On Nov. 9, 2019, the New York Times unusually featured a discussion of new music events as part of its ‘Science’ Section. A paper by Knvul Sheikh, entitled ‘This Is What Climate Change Sounds Like,’ displayed the work of The ClimateMusic Project, a San Francisco-based non-profit which promotes ‘science-guided’ musics in order to raise climate change awareness as well as climate literacy in the general public. Most installments of this project—particularly those pertaining to ‘new music’—associate musical parameters such as tempo and pitch with data such as carbon emissions or atmospheric temperature, resulting in ever-intensifying musical forms that intend to convey an emotional sense of urgency in the listener. As impressing as they can be, these pieces end up telling the same story by the same means. Can new music tellingly address climate change, without giving up its values of innovation and complexity? I’d like to sketch a positive answer, by discussing two recent works by Swedish composer Malin Bång, premiered in 2017. Kudzu /The Sixth Phase/ (for piccolo flute/writing pad, bass clarinet/objects, percussion/objects, inside piano, tabletop guitar, violin/typewriter, and cello) encapsulates a talk based on newspaper articles from several countries, addressing climate change evidence. While Kudzu displayed words and drawings in the service of scientific explanation, Jasmonate, a shorter composition derived from the latter, seems to be a ‘pure’ new music ensemble piece with limited political or scientific power. However, it weaves together a diversity of ways to ‘signal’ climate change, such as the following: performers voice formal cues corresponding to extinction phases; sandglasses are used both as symbols and sound-sources; specific playing techniques are linked to physiological stakes (for example, breathing in the flute evokes asphyxia); conversely, the typewriter is used to type sentences about irreversible climatic events but the text remains hidden, contrasting with the clear sound of typing. Ambiguity may well be a meaningful channel to signal climate change, in line with the culture of new music."