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For Seasons in der Elbphilharmonie Hamburg © HMG

NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra makes climate change audible

Performance of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" based on algorithm with historical weather data

Hamburg’s NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra, conducted by Alan Gilbert, performed Saturday (November 16, 2019) an unusual version of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” dubbed “For Seasons”. An algorithm based on historical weather data had been applied to the score and audibly reinterpreted an outstanding work of classical music. Gilbert said: “This project is very dear to my heart. ‘For Seasons’ powerfully depicts the consequences of climate change aurally and expands the debate raging today by an emotional dimension. We must no longer refuse to listen.” Hamburg has proven highly suitable for making climate change audible through the powerful and international language of music.

Spring and summer intertwined

The algorithm is based on scientific data from research institutes, environmental agencies as well as universities. The development of the climate i.e. rising global temperatures, the frequency of weather extremes and the extinction of bird and insect species all impacted the score. The harmonic structure breaks down, spring and summer become intertwined and instrumental bird voices become silent. “For Seasons” is not easy listening and is bereft of its original musical proportions and balance.

Disturbing and fraught

“I believe the piece will automatically achieve its goal of touching people,” said Yuri Christiansen, co-principal cellist with the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. “Almost everyone in the hall will be familiar with the original and will quickly be struck with how different it sounds now, how disturbing. ‘For Seasons’ makes it clear that nothing will remain as we know it today if we fail to take action.”

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