Five Compositions for the Environmental Song

Composition

Photos by Omri Sebastian Livne

In collaboration with Richard Frater

Evi Filippou (percussion)
Nevo Bar (bass)
Adrien Braud (clarinet and bass clarinet)
Kelly Odonohue (trumpet)
Maya Shenfeld (electric guitar)

On December 2, Composer Maya Shenfeld and artist Richard Frater presented an evening of music inspired by 1970’s environmental protest songs at KW Institute for Contemporary Art.

Their hike back to the 1970’s targets a period in pop music when emotional directness towards immanent environmental threats was urgently felt and needed. Tribute songs like Fourmyula’s single Nature (1969), Marvin Gaye’s 1970’s hit Mercy Mercy me (The Ecology), Jon Hanlon’s Damn the Dam (1973), and Teach In’s Greenpeace (1979) were born out of a spirit of protest and celebration and perceived as effective modes of collective mobilization.
What distinguishes them is a belief that complex environmental issues are perfectly communicable to the public through the pop song. Yet half a century later, the weary listener familiar with their themes may find the intensification of climate change disheartening. Rising sea levels, extreme weather anomalies, increasing atmospheric CO2, and global temperature records, all signal the onset of climate tipping points on a moody earth. Frater and Shenfeld’s piece acknowledges that the environmental song is written for the current generation as much as it was written for the generation it emerged in. Still protesting, still asserting its relevance. This follows one condition of the present: an impatience to resurrect the recent past.

Divided into five movements, the piece and the selected instruments use quotation, repetition, counterpoint, fragmentation, and refraction as means to unlock the new environmental song.