Global warming and the arts: 1 – The Music of the Spheres

By Mike Johnson

The ancient Chinese believed that music could melt ice. Now we know better, but we have always believed it can melt hearts. Divine music is said to speak directly to the soul, and we do need the soul on board here as the mind just can’t do it alone. Often the heart knows what the mind can’t accept. Music doesn’t just lift us and inspire us, it informs us.

Discovering the amazing musical experiment ‘Song of our Warming Planet’ reminded me of the part music can play in both informing people and combating misinformation, so I decided that the first in this series would be dedicated to music, starting with the ‘Song of our Warming planet.’ I can do more than scratch the surface of this subject, which deserves a much fuller treatment. You can find the same video here, renamed Mother Nature Needs Us.

In a previous post, I talked of the ‘love of graphs’ and how I liked the way graphs can encapsulate a lot of information. But not everybody responds to visual information in the same way. Do you see what I see? So how about an audio-graph? (just made up the word!), that is, a graph set to music. That’s what David Crawford of the University of Minnesota did, transposing temperatures into musical notation.

You can either watch the graph move as you listen, or close your eyes and hear the movement, that insistent upward movement. The listening experience can be profound, as the music form of the graph emphasizes its linear nature, whereas the eye can jump all around.

 Don’t miss it!

Music has always been a great vehicle for satire, and good satire is healthy. They say that what a despot hates most of all is mockery; the bully can’t bear being laughed at. The despot hates the singing of the world. Not so amazing to think there was a time in our culture when woman were not allowed to laugh or sing because such joy was a threat. Why? Because it was not under control.

The opening shots of ‘I’m a Climate Scientist’ by HUNGRY BEAST are of Republican politicians who tend to preface their rejection of climate science by admitting they are not climate scientists, as if this admission somehow qualifies them to rubbish the science (twisty stuff). 

HUNGRY BEAST are climate scientists, a group of young scientists hitting back at the public vilification of their science, making a mockery of their mockers and having fun doing it. I’m not a rap singer but…

Once you start looking you’ll find hundreds of songs dealing with environmental themes. Michael Jackson’s Save Our Planet is a good starting place. There are a number of songs listed under ‘Songs for the Environment’ and special mention should be made of Melissa Ethridge’s song ‘I need to wake up.’

Her sentiment applies to all of us, although seldom articulated so beautifully, or with such heartfelt feeling. If, as the physicists tell us, the universe is a harmonic, it’s time to start listening to the song.