Nature’s Symphonic Beauty: Towards a New Paradigm
Art has the power to drive human progress
by helping us think beyond our limitations and obstacles.
Its power is needed more than ever,
as our world is faced with unprecedented global health and environmental crisis.
The art world can, and should, play a pivotal part
in restoring the balance of our relationship with nature,
particularly as art impacts how people define themselves
in relation to the world around them.
Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th United Nations General Assembly
Emotion for Change features a group of musicians, artists, and scientists who share the desire to communicate their love for the “symphonic” beauty of nature. Based in Italy, but with a network that spans many countries in Europe and beyond, Emotion for Change has been active since 2015. Through concerts, educational performances, and the production of artistic videos, our initiative raises awareness and motivates listeners to develop more ecologically interconnected practices.
Last week, we reached another milestone with the release of our new musical album called IPERMARE (Italian for “Hypersea”). The album is an exploration of new modalities of relationships—in the way artists, scientists, producers, and customers interconnect and collaborate. Moreover, we build our soundscape through listening to nature inside and around us.
Hypersea, according to M. and D. McMenamin, was an interconnected network of tiny protozoa (the first animals) that lived on the ocean floor. These protozoa formed a kind of superorganism, where they exchanged nutrients and genetic information, creating a highly adaptive and dynamic ecosystem. Since land creatures lacked the availability of ocean nutrients, they had to access and store fluids and transfer them internally. Hypersea is a possible explanation for the Cambrian explosion, a period of rapid diversification of complex life forms that occurred about 540 million years ago. Today, Hypersea’s function on our earth is performed by the huge network of fungal hyphae. They connected the roots of their symbiotic plant partners generating a vast underground network of nutrient channels that often link disparate species, in an intricate partnership that has lasted 400 million years.
Our music is an attempt to communicate our constant inter-breathing across species and lifeforms, and across arts as well: in the booklet we asked the contribution of poet Amelia De Lazzari, painter Monica Martin, photographer Elisabetta Zavoli, figurative artist Marco Tidu, and scientist Giuseppe Barbiero. The musicians have a background in classical music, salsa, jazz, and afro music: everything is interconnected.
Our musical compositions are an invitation to the audience to see things differently.
Here’s an example: recently, scientists discovered that the molecule structures of chlorophyll (the sap that runs in plants) and hemoglobin (as part of human blood) are very similar. Only the molecules’ middle parts are different: while magnesium is chlorophyll’s central element, in the case of hemoglobin it is iron. As musicians, we were deeply impressed by this similarity, and we began to imagine how plant sap and human blood could intertwine. This inspired us to compose the musical piece “De atomo al centro” (“About the central atom”).
Another important aspect of redefining relationships for us was the album’s executive production, financing, and marketing. We agreed that art—just as health, education, and information—shouldn’t be regulated by the logic of the market. But that is exactly what happens all the time today, with deteriorating effects and distortions that are hard to overlook. We are convinced that the wealth of art and culture should be measured in terms of nourishment for people’s health and psychophysical well-being, not in terms of money. At the same time, you need financial resources to turn artistic ideas into physical reality.
We approached this complex conundrum with the help of a few entrepreneurs (such as peoplerise) who agreed to support our project. The result is that we can make the album available to everyone. People can decide individually if they want to support us by buying the physical product, or donating to Emotion for Change, or listening for free to our music. (In any case, if you wish to reduce the CO2 production as a result of the high energy consumption of server exchanges, we recommend to download the files, instead of streaming the music.) The best way of listening to the album is to listen to the full Side A (containing 5 tracks: Hypersea, Dancing Hyphae, Barefoot, Atom in the center, My tears!), which lasts around 20 minutes, and then go to Side B (with another 5 tracks: Amazonas, Among the trees of the forest, Clover game, Third Paradise, The Sea), again lasting about 20 minutes.
Music is a connector in so many ways. We are connected like the notes in a musical piece. As one of the greatest cellists of all times, Pablo Casals, once said, each note (like every living being) is related to the note that precedes it and the note that follows it. He also explained that each note is like the link in a chain, important in itself, but also a link between what has been and what will be.
Music is a metaphor of life.
The complex relationships that brought forth IPERMARE include musicians, scientists, visual artists, and performers. Working in a group means discovering, sharing, and understanding different perspectives. Again, a piece on the album can represent the collaboration that influences our music and performance, but now located in the subterranean interconnections of different beings: “Ife Fungine” (“Fungal hyphae”).
Harmonious beauty is something that music and the natural world have in common. This is why we strongly believe that activist work for living beings on the planet should come from a love for the sublime and for symphonic beauty, rather than from the fear of climatic catastrophes. Too often, we’re driven by artificial distinctions between art and nature: To rebuild the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, arguably an amazing testimony of human art, French authorities cut down 1,000 historic oak trees in more than 200 forests across France. Aren’t the trees a testimony of beauty and art as well, worthy of the same respect?
Fear is an important emotion that helps us to protect ourselves. When it comes to engaging with the living Earth and to developing a relational attitude toward the planet, however, we need to cultivate hope and imagination. “The art world can, and should, play a pivotal part in restoring the balance of our relationship with nature,” says Abdulla Shahid in the quote with which I started this blog post. IPERMARE is a response to this call for action.
Sara Michieletto is a violinist and composer who is deeply passionate about plants. Recently, she has been conducting artistic research on the unraveling of the language that unites music and biosphere. As part of this research, for two years she has been running a scientific experiment of communication with clovers through music.
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Image credit: Cover art from album “Ipermare,” © Emotion for Change, 2023.