BY Juha Torvinen
Ecology is a burning issue these days. No truly aware person can any longer deny that our natural environment, with its pollution and the phenomenon of climate change, is under serious threat of extinction.
Ecology examines this relationship between human culture and the natural environment. What it has been, what it is now, and what it should be if our environment is not to be destroyed, taking us all with it.
Ecological music is also about the way humans and the rest of nature interact with one another. But in practice, ecology in music can be realised in many different ways. Music can represent nature and people’s relationship with it in its words, libretti or in some other aspect of its content. During the Romantic Era, this mainly took the form of doting admiration, but the prevailing mood now is more to do with ecological concerns.
But music and nature often also resemble each other in character. They are comprehensive and in some ways fundamental experiences. And acoustic ecology has also turned our attention to the importance of the non-musical soundscapes in our (natural) environment.
Music is also a good example of recycling, albeit in a figurative sense. Instruments frequently improve the older they get, musical ideas flow from one composer or artist to the next (influences), and even whole styles of music take new forms based on old elements.
Another area of potential for musical ecology is music’s value to the community. Music can be used as a set of (sub)cultural rituals that underpin and reflect a culture’s common values, beliefs and ideologies. That is why it can also depict the sort of social problems and doomsday scenarios that we associate with ecological crises. In this sense, music can shake people out of their lethargy and ring alarm bells – it then becomes an ecological ritual.
Translation: Spencer Allman