Saving The Earth–Artist/Activists for the Environment

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It’s obvious that our physical world is in deep trouble. Old and new technologies are out of control—polluting our air, water and soil, poisoning our health, heating up the climate to extreme weather changes, and destroying the ecosystems upon which our lives and all living things depend. What is it that we, ordinary people, can do to force our governments to stop this rape and murder of the earth?

We are six women artists. Since we are artists, we will try to help through our art.

In 2016, composer Alice Shields collaborated with composers Sheree Clement, Eleanor Cory, and Nina C. Young to design a concert of new works dedicated to the earth, all created by women. The concert would be presented by The Association for the Promotion of New Music in New York City (APNM) and would be performed by the musicians of Ensemble Pi.

Idith Meshulam Korman—pianist, artistic director of Ensemble Pi, and one of the most vibrant social activists in classical music—was already a friend of several of the composers and immediately got involved. Ensemble Pi was indeed the perfect ensemble for this project: an outstanding contemporary performing ensemble, with a celebrated history and ongoing commitment to human rights and environmental protection.

With Idith and Ensemble Pi’s roster of musicians in mind, several of us began writing new pieces about the environment that would be performed at the proposed concert. As plans developed, we decided to explore what visual artist we might bring in to enhance the experience of our audience. Erik Lundborg, the president of APNM, suggested we might want to ask the prominent environmental photographer Lynne Buchanan, whom he had known as a fellow student at New College, if she would be interested in participating. Passionately committed to environmental protection, Lynne has documented climate change and water issues across the United States and around the world in places such as Patagonia, Iceland, the Falkland Islands, Antarctica, and Bangladesh.

 

We contacted her, and Lynne quickly became the sixth member of our artist-activist alliance. A dedicated environmentalist, she has photographed natural phenomena around the world, working for environmental organizations such as Waterkeeper Alliance, as well as with indigenous people. Lynne’s beautiful, often disturbing photographs of the current state of the earth are riveting. Not only do they document the actual physical phenomena of streams, rivers, oceans, trees, and landscapes, but they are also works of art, radiantly detailed and shining with natural light. Lynne’s environmental photographs will be shown throughout the SAVING THE EARTH concert, matched with the mood and world view of our different compositions. Our concert audience will not only be hearing music inspired by the environment, but will be experiencing visual art representing environmental issues as well.

IS OUR MUSIC AND VISUAL ART ENOUGH TO CONVEY OUR CONCERN ABOUT SAVING THE PHYSICAL WORLD?

We considered what else might elevate the audience’s experience. We were not environmental scientists or biologists: is our music and visual art enough to convey our concern about saving the physical world? Don’t we also need someone who can speak with authority about the perilous state of the environment? We asked Lynne what environmental organization we should invite to speak at the concert. Lynne suggested we contact Waterkeeper Alliance, a nonprofit devoted to clean water around the world which she knew well.

The Waterkeeper movement was started by fishermen on New York’s Hudson River in 1966 because industrial polluters were destroying their way of life. Their environmental activism led to the Hudson’s inspiring recovery. Waterkeeper Alliance now unites 300 Waterkeeper organizations around the world, tracking down polluters, enforcing environmental laws in the courts, advocating in town meetings, and teaching in classrooms. They speak for the waters they defend. We contacted them and are pleased to say that Waterkeeper’s Executive Director Marc Yaggi will speak during the concert. Before joining Waterkeeper Alliance, Marc, a specialist in environmental law, was a senior attorney for Riverkeeper, Inc., where he worked to protect the 2,000-square-mile watershed that provides New York City’s drinking water.

The concert program we have designed together —four composers, a pianist-ensemble leader, and an environmental photographer—is called SAVING THE EARTH – Two operas and two meditations for our Planet. It will be presented by the Association for the Promotion of New Music on Nov. 20, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in Manhattan. Below, each one of us speaks a little about the concert and our hopes for the preservation of the earth.

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