Our Earth | Focus on...Climate Change

Our Earth | Focus on...Climate Change

Join us in celebrating the environmental consciousness of Wise Music Group composers as we explore the meeting of art and activism in compositions which echo the urgent call of our planet. As the world grapples with the consequences of climate change, music that speaks to the heart of our environmental challenges are more important to celebrate than ever.

Rachel Portman
Tipping Points (24')

Written for violin, text and orchestra, Tipping Points is in six movements, each preceded by the spoken text of poems by Nick Drake giving a total of twelve episodes shared between words and music. The poems grew out of a conversation between Rachel and Nick about the classical elements, Earth, Water, Air and Fire.

"Many ancient and classical cultures explain the nature, complexity and interconnectedness of the universe, and of change (or metamorphosis), in similar terms. To us, the elements also now speak to the climate emergency."

The poems can be narrated live between movements, or a recorded version spoken by actress Grainne Dromgoole is available with the performance materials.

Endangered (11')

Endangered was one of three works commissioned for the 2013 World Environment Day concert by the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing. Intended to generate awareness around some major environmental themes, Portman decided to focus on life and the many species facing extinction due to the climate crisis.

Earth Song (20')

Portman and Drake collaborate again on Earth Song, using words from Greta Thunberg and the form of a conversation within the human mind and body as it breathes. The choir passes thoughts to one another, then come together to breathe as one, representing different thoughts and elemental landscapes on earth, mirroring the balance between night and day, the ebb and flow of the tides, together with the human act of breathing in and out. Ultimately Earth Song seeks to express that humans are one with the earth and inseparable.

 

Joby Talbot
Meniscus (9')

Meniscus, also commissioned for the 2013 World Environment Day concert, is a short orchestral work which has a certain ebb and flow, with a reflective quality – an opportunity perhaps to consider humankind’s relationship with water; our dependence on it and its ability to cause destruction.

Tide Harmonic (1"15')

Talbot’s first evening length ballet was Eau, commissioned by CCN Roubaix for choreographer Carolyn Carlson. Following its premiere Talbot renamed the score Tide Harmonic. In 2013, Christopher Wheeldon took movements of the work to create a new piece for Pacific Northwest Ballet.

 

 

Ludovico Einaudi
Wetlands (15')

Commissioned alongside Endangered and Meniscus, Einaudi's work reflects on the element of water and its different interactions with land. It is a meditation on a theme rather than a programmatic work, focussing on how one might imagine being water and being land; about the possible interactions and reactions between them.

After an introductory section there are four connected movements in a type of circular form, the last movement being a variation of the second, as if the process could re-start again from there. The music ends, with a suspension, maybe leaving us with a question mark about where we should go in the future.

 

Maja S. K. Ratkje
Paragraf 112 (7’)

Paragraf 112 was commissioned for the 200 year anniversary of the Norwegian constitution by the symphonic orchestras of Norway. Ratkje chose to focus on section 112 of the constitution, which stipulates that the authorities must ensure that nature's productive capacity and diversity are preserved.

"Nature's resources must be managed based on a long-term and comprehensive consideration that safeguards this right also for posterity", it says, among other things. Norwegian culture is inextricably linked to nature, and this work is intended as a reminder that responsibility for the fragile but important diversity must not be neglected.

A Whisper, or a Prayer, or a Song (15’)

A Whisper, or a Prayer, or a Song was comissioned for the 2024 concert - "Nordic - A Fragile Hope" serving as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance and sensitive resources found in the Nordic region and the problems with climate change.

The wide open intervals emerge and spread throughout the orchestra, land like lengthy, contrived sentences eventually falling to the ground, but start anew, rising like a song, more songs, lacking voice, but still… There is yet hope, fragile, but moving.
– Maja S. K. Ratkje

 

Outi Tarkiainen
Polar Pearls (24’)

(…) when they come
they will find this land, us
and we are stones, plants, animals, fishes
water, wind, earth, sky (…)

Inspired by a poem by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää, Polar Pearls shines a light not only on endangered arctic species such as the freshwater pearl mussel and the snowy owl, but also the indigenous dwellers of the arctic zone who are inseparable from their environment.

"Eyes are turning more and more towards the indigenous peoples as the environmental destruction caused by climate change proceeds: we are, maybe instinctively, looking to them in our search for a new model as we realise that our lifestyle and overconsumption are destroying not only Nature, but us, too. The Concerto for Chamber Orchestra Polar Pearls is like a bracelet of little character movements – tributes to our unique Arctic Nature and its delicate balance."

 

Songs of the Ice (12’)

Dedicated to the Okjökull glacier, declared dead in 2014 and Iceland’s first victim of climate change, Songs of the Ice is an orchestral work about the arctic ice which breathes with the seasons, swelling in winter and shrinking in summer. Its age-old movement sings a song of its own: slowly surging, unrelenting and covering all beneath it.

The work begins with the rumbling sound of ice: the orchestra attacks with waves each stronger than the last that finally break and shatter into clear crystals. Reverberating through the empty space are wailing wind solos, the soul of the ice – a big man’s lament that is gradually compressed by his anguish into warning cries from the piccolos. At last the strings bring consolation: over the landscape their warmth spreads a thick blanket that flows more and more relentlessly towards a new cycle in which everything begins again, but never the same as before.

 

Mosaics (15’)

Alongside Ratkje's A Whisper, or a Prayer, or a Song, this work was composed as part of the major project Nordic, a Fragile Hope, dealing with climate change, by Swedish photographer and film maker Joakim Odelberg. In Mosaics Tarkiainen reflects and fantasises the musical world of her first opera, A Room of One’s Own, 

 

Tobias PM Schneid
Earth Symphony (34’)

Tobias PM Schneid‘s "Earth Symphony" is not a glorifying hymn to planet earth, but a large-scale orchestral outcry, a beacon to draw attention in the concert hall to the precarious climate situation and the urgency of a conscious and mindful use of the planet's resources. The five movements of the symphony - Magma/Water/Tree/Desert/Air - each comment in their own way on the "unhinged" nature of our ecosystem and thematise the processes of decomposition to which this system is exposed through human activity. Not a musical eco-thriller, but a memorial with the intended call to act responsibly.

 

 

Ross Edwards
Vespers for Mother Earth (60')

For chorus and orchestra, Vespers for Mother Earth was conceived as a response to our present-day ecological crisis and also inspired by Claudio Monteverdi’s wonderful Vespero della Beata Vergine (1610). Abound with symbols of day and night ranging from the manifest to the subliminal, it may be seen as either a swansong for humankind, or the hope of a new beginning – the renewal of an eternal cycle which restores the feminine (night) principle after an often devastating ascendancy of the masculine (day).

 

William Barton
Of the Earth (12')

Barton describes Of the Earth as "a visible statement of hope" - the large-scale work for orchestra, choir and children's choir focuses on human's connection with the earth.  

 

John Luther Adams
Become Ocean (42')

Become Ocean is the second of a trilogy with Become River (2010) and Become Desert (2017). The three works, individually and together, reflect the composer's deep relationship with nature and his concern for our changing climate. 
The title is borrowed from text that John Cage wrote, likening Lou Harrison's music to a river delta. John Luther Adams wrote of the work “Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. And as the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.”

 

Jonathan Dove
Gaia Theory (20')

Dove returns to the subject of climate change often in his work. In 2008 he joined Cape Farewell’s expedition to the spectacular Disko Bay area of West Greenland. This trip, along with his fascination with James Lovelock's writings on Gaia Theory led to the composition of this work. 

"A voyage to the Arctic... woke me up to the speed and scale of changes that were taking place. I wondered if it was possible to write about this without finger-wagging. In James Lovelock’s books, I found ideas that music could celebrate and explore... his image of everything dancing together to achieve this balance obviously invites music."

In Gaia Theory Dove imagines what this dance might sound like, and explores how the heat of the sun change might change the character of the dance. What would happen if some elements of the dance started to spin out of control?

Vanishing Gold (5' String Quartet)

Vanishing Gold a String Quartet inspired by two little creatures: the once-abundant golden toad of Costa Rica was last seen thirty years ago, and has been declared extinct, while the golden coqui of Puerto Rico may also be extinct. Its distinctive two-note call is the starting point for the piece, which is a hymn to these vanishing tiny golden amphibians.

The Day After (1"15' Opera)

An opera in 1 act, The Day After follows a group of survivors in a post-Apocalyptic world as they retell the story of their preceding catastrophe which saw the scorching sun crashing down to Earth.

The Walk from the Garden (45' Opera) 

The story of Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden has a particular resonance in a time of growing awareness of man’s impact on the planet. This moving and poignant 45-minute church opera in 12 scenes is scored for an unusual but approachable line-up: 2 solo singers, chorus, string quartet, timpani and organ. Ideal for companies taking work out of the opera house and introducing opera to the wider community.

 

Sunleif Rasmussen
Bird Metamorphoses (10’)

In Bird Metamorphoses Rasmussen reflects on his childhood in the Faroe Islands and the tragic decline in bird numbers on the islands.

“I will write a piece for flute, guitar and electronics. The electronics will consist of real sounds of birds in the beginning of the piece, but as the piece goes on the bird singing will be, by the electronic, transformed to something that sounds very different from the birds in the beginning of the piece. At the same time, the two instruments will be transformed from amplified instruments, through an “effect processor” to another soundworld. At the end of the piece the music will die out as a symbol of the situation we have been facing on the Faroe Islands the last 40 years, namely that the bird songs have almost disappeared."

Cheryl Frances-Hoad
Scenes from the Wild (1"10')

Based on Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty, Scenes from the Wild is a Song Cycle for Tenor and Chamber Orchestra. The diary, March 2018-19, begins with an echo of Dara’s early memories, then traces the year through his autism and being bullied at school, but primarily through real events that describe his interaction with the natural world. His fascination for all flora and fauna and his horror at their destruction lead on to the start of his activism; by the end of this year he emerges, just before his 15th birthday, knowing where he must go.