The Music Project image

One composer believes music can help people understand climate change.

Composer Erik Ian Walker and the Climate Music Project created a 30-minute musical concert based on climate data. Information such as temperature and CO2 levels are represented by different aspects of the music, such as tempo, volume, and distortion. While the musicians play, the data is projected behind them on a large screen.

Each minute depicts 25 years on earth. At first things sound calm.

Erik Ian Walker
Composer Erik Ian Walker.

As we pass through the present the music becomes more animated.

When we reach the year 2300, having not reduced global warming pollution, the Earth is hotter by 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The music dissolves into chaos.

Walker: “That is what becomes challenging for the audience, is the sense of everything coming unglued, and there is nothing to hold onto.”

He says the experience resonates with audiences.

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Walker: “People come away with a feeling of galvanization, that they really have to be a little more active.”

He hopes they are motivated by the sound of a planet spinning toward dissonance.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photos: Courtesy of the Climate Music Project and Erik Ian Walker.

Sara Peach is the editor-in-chief of Yale Climate Connections. She is an environmental journalist whose work has appeared in National Geographic, Scientific American, Environmental Health News, Grist,...