“I am not an optimist, because I am not sure that everything ends well. Nor am I a pessimist, because I am not sure that everything ends badly. I just carry hope in my heart. Hope is the feeling that life and work have a meaning. You either have it or you don't, regardless of the state of the world that surrounds you.”
- Vaclav Havel
new approaches to climate
New World Voyage - Bill Crandall
[Editor's note: I don't curate and produce this newsletter to promote myself. But I wrestle with creating work like everyone else, I'm in the game. So if you'll allow me:]
New World Voyage is a 2016 experimental concept album, using a hybrid of music and album art - in the form of a digital booklet - to imagine the story of the first humans to leave Earth forever. Yes, for Mars, but the primary thing is the leaving, that's the part I couldn't get my head around from the standpoint of the human psyche. Is it possible to leave the entire human experience on Earth behind? Who would leave a place where we have everything we need, for a place where we have literally nothing we need? What kind of person would do that? For example, the song Love Again is about a formerly trafficked woman on the crew, looking to get as far from her demons as possible:
Feeling a landslide
Bartered and sold
Once in a nighttime
Waits to be told
Wants to love again
To take control
Wants to break this ordinary hold
This video extract is from the full-length 'movie version' of the album:
It's a non-literal story of sorts, relying heavily on the power of suggestion. I think of it as a future-folk tale and the songs as future-folk songs. Does 'folk' have to be bound to the past? Aren't Grimm-style folk tales in many cultures already imaginative cautionary stories, meant to guide our ancestors into the future?
"Here's what happened to so-and-so when they ventured into the forest, so don't do that!" How about swapping the forest for space?
This story goes something like:
The first humans to leave Earth look back on their own lives and human history as they prepare for departure, the moment of great separation (Echoes). The one-way journey is many months in a confined space with others, without showering or much privacy. Two children are aboard as well. Crew members keep a running communications log with Earth.
As Earth recedes and the crew's fate is literally cast to the cosmos, they begin to become deranged and increasingly numb, speaking in semi-gibberish in the song Feel (with an unconscious nod to HAL's iconic demise in 2001 Space Odyssey: "my systems are failing, Dave... I can feel it...").
Hold my face
Stood and found a laden dog
Cool eyes wait
Dead he said and walls that talk
Wait like I told you
It's not late at all
I don't know how much I care
I don't know how much I can understand
I can feel it
Music sustains them on the journey as they are battered equally by gamma rays and ennui. Songs are written and sung onboard about their experience, with the sounds of space (using NASA Voyager public domain audio) and the ship itself forming the sonic background.
The arrival on Mars is a terrifying descent, but they somehow survive and build out their new lives. The messages offer clues to what happens to them:
Eventually Earth stops responding to their communications, and the next round of colonists is long overdue. What does it mean? Are they now stranded, truly alone? They are plagued with fever-dreams of the natural paradise they left behind.
Ultimately, New World Voyage is meant to serve as an environmental manifesto - stay and fix Earth, human habitation on Mars is a terrible idea. To me, nothing could be a more profound commentary on our broken relationship with the environment than our desire to leave it for a completely inhospitable place.
music to carry us forward
Old songs reimagined for a modern context.
via Folk Radio UK:
“All my life as a singer, I have been drawn to old songs. In them, I find solidarity with the ghosts of people I have never met and yet share fragments of feelings with. Somewhere in the empathy that is shared between singer, listener, and ghostly forms, I find strands of myself that didn’t originate in my own heart but have found their way in there all the same. They belong to someone or somewhere else, yet I feel them as deeply as if they were mine.
With this album, I seek to represent the realities of modern-era women through traditional song. I am intentionally redirecting these songs away from the traditional narrative, turning them to face the modern era, to reflect a new social outlook, and I am imagining the present as I sing them.
’The Unquiet’ is based on the life of my late mother, Eileen Scanlon, and her contemporaries in Irish society. I include myself in this. The songs are not literal in that they do not reflect specific events in my mother’s life. They do, however, have a resonance and a purpose in reflecting her lived experience and that of modern-era women in Ireland through my perspective.
If you only have time to listen to one climate-arts podcast, make it this one. Engaging, relatable, cool, and positive, chock-full of ideas and bits you'll want to write down but you can't because there are too many. Here are the episodes to catch you up with Season 3, but I suggest going back to seasons 1 and 2 as well. If you commute, these episodes are the perfect length to get you to and fro.
Hip-hop can be 'future music' too.
Ugandan Jaspher Ewany talks with the hosts about 'mic power', community, core values of peace/love/unity, and hip-hop as an acronym: 'Helping Individual Persons to Help Other People'.
When we talk about 'preservation' in the context of our increasingly volatile climate, we're not just talking about land, soil or oceans – but culture; the stories, practices and traditions that make us who we are. Many indigenous cultures are under threat with places becoming increasingly uninhabitable because of extreme weather or the effects that a changing climate has on basics like food and water supplies.
This week's episode is dedicated to someone working on the frontline in communities directly dealing with this – Ugandan rapper, lyricist, youth community organiser and self-proclaimed "Hip-Hop Practitioner" Dealrafael Jsp-E (Jaspher Ewany). Jaspher's the founder of Lango Indigenous Hip-Hop, an organisation who engage, educate, and inspire local people using the power, joy, and unity of music. By doing that, he's also preserving and creating indigenous stories, knowledge and culture.
Washington Post | April 7, 2022
[T]he images that come to mind when we think about climate change are too big to wrap our heads around: glaciers melting somewhere; coal plants scattered around the world, pumping emissions into the sky; a rising ocean; a decimated forest.
It’s easy to feel alienated by this existential threat. This show doesn’t help.
Washington Post | April 7, 2022
In nearly three decades since first going to the Arctic, I have come to learn a few key things when it comes to the polar region that came out of my fieldwork for my visual reporting. The first thing I learned was that the Arctic is not one place or thing, but can be more than 100 issues and narratives depending on who you are and what your goal is. What I found was that I had to become a student and that Indigenous people are the original scientists of the Arctic. I have learned more about ancient technologies for navigating and understanding weather and animals from Inuit elders than anyone else, which has helped me see how the region is undergoing a drastic change that will affect our perceived safety to the south.
Surrounded by ice sheets and animals like whales, seals and penguins, Novo Amor performs his song State Lines to raise awareness for ocean protection. With this action, we are urging world leaders to agree on a strong Global Ocean Treaty which will help to protect at least 30% of our oceans by 2030 through a network of marine sanctuaries.
Nearly 5 million people globally have signed the petition to protect our oceans. Add your name now and help put the biggest conservation effort in human history into action.
Tuesday, April 19, 2:00pm
To celebrate Earth Day, Rough Trade and Music Declares Emergency presents a panel conversation discussing how we can best use our money to stop fueling the Climate Crisis.
If you’re a music fan, musician, record label, artist manager, or agent, how you spend, save or invest your money is one of the most impactful ways you can individually and collectively confront the climate crisis. Major global banks have funded the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $3.8 trillion dollars since the Paris Climate Accord was signed in 2015 and moving your money away from the worst offenders is both a statement and a very real way to turn the tide on the fossil fuel industry.
This event is part of Music Declares Emergency’s Turn Up The Volume! Week – for more information www.musicdeclares.net