Prayers for a Feverish Planet 

New Music About Climate Change

Ann DuHamel, Piano 

5 May 2023

McKnight Fellowship for Musicians Finals • MacPhail Center for Music • Minneapolis MN


Forgive Them Not, For They Know What They Do (2020) Karen Lemon, b. 1961

White Parasol (2008) Ian Dicke, b. 1982

Plain Song (2015) Judith Shatin, b. 1949
I. Plain Song
IV. Tutta Gloria

Those Who Watch (2020) Gunter Gaupp, b. 1993

Note from the performer 

All of today’s selections are part of my project “Prayers for a Feverish Planet,” which encompasses 60+ works that respond somehow to the climate crisis. This set is bookended by two works that were written in 2020 in response to my call for scores. The middle two pieces were composed in the years leading up to 2020; both directly and indirectly speak to climate change. This group represents some of (but not nearly all) of my favorites from the project; beyond this emotional connection, there are other overall thematic links. 

Each of these pieces is somehow inspired by text – the poetry of former Poet Laureate Charles Wright, words from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible, and news (or “news,” as it were). Text can be used to lift us up, or it can be used as propaganda. It can function as a launch pad for subsequent musical creation, or conversely, the music can illuminate deeper meaning in the text. Since the inception of this project,* I’ve been reflecting on the idea of “In the beginning was the word” – beyond the religious and dogmatic implications therein. How what makes us human is our consciousness and thinking, which requires words. How these words initiate and continue thought, and even impart responsibility to us to care for each other and the planet. How words inspire action or influence others. Our words are our prayers. What we say matters. The final words heard in the program are spoken by Bill Nye, the Science Guy: after the piano’s explosive finish in Those Who Watch, he says, in response to a query posed to him on Crossfire, 

“Climate Change IS our number one priority right now.” 

The music of each of these pieces, for me, heightens the original text to make the meaning even more powerful. 

*From my call for scores: 
“The title of “prayer” is not necessarily indicative of a religious quality to the music. A prayer can be a plea for mercy and forgiveness. A prayer can be a hopeful appeal to something beyond our human selves. A prayer can be an acknowledgement that individuals need to commit to the diligent, tireless work to create effective change while recognizing the need for external grace for help in effecting such a change. A prayer can have a miraculous impact.”

More abstractly, each of these four pieces relates to the many-faceted idea of time: slowing down, speeding up, running out. I hear echoes of deep time (see Robert MacFarlane’s Underland: A Deep Time Journey) in Ian Dicke’s White Parasol, the tempo of which is marked “Ice cracking.” Ancient texts supply the impetus for Karen Lemon’s piece; no sooner is the opening texture established than imperceptible metric displacements create an underlying instability. The disruptions of time continue with syncopations, rests, and textural changes (in addition to the unease from the evermore dissonant pitches and growing dynamics). The ending dissolves into a haunting hymn, which, in fits and starts, grows ever slower, directing the performer to “sing with humility, with a heart full of hope but a mind full of despair.” The groove in Those Who Watch keeps good time, and makes me think of the non-stop scrolling chyrons in news programs. Striking clocks appear in Plain Song; is this the hour of our undoing?  These rich poems are suggestive of death and life, our mortality a temporary incandescence.

Program notes (by the composers) and composer biographies

Forgive Them Not, For They Know What They Do (2020) Karen Lemon, b. 1961

Forgive them not, for they know what they do  

(A lamentation on inaction against human-induced climate change)  

The motivation for this piece needs no more explanation than the title and subtitle provide. The title is a  modified paraphrase of words attributed to Jesus Christ on his condemnation and crucifixion as appear in the Bible Gospel According to Luke, Chapter 23 (his words indicating a soul much more forgiving than my own). Similarly, the titles of the piece’s three sections – “… they do these things when the tree is green …”, “… what will they do when it is dry?” and “Weep for yourselves and for your children” – are words attributed by Luke to Jesus, though here they are given a different focus.  

Our climate situation is dire. We can each of us act to make a small improvement, but the necessary great  improvement, and lasting change for the good, can only be achieved if we all of us act.  

Australian composer Karen Lemon counts amongst her qualifications a PhD in Musicology from the  University of Sydney (on Schoenberg’s post-tonal music c.1910) and a License in Dalcroze Eurhythmics  from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, USA. However her career as a composer is in its early stages: despite minor studies in composition in her undergraduate days (with Anne Boyd and Gillian Whitehead, amongst others), it has only been in recent years that Karen has returned to it. She has been privileged to have had her music performed in locations as far afield as Sydney, Los Angeles, New York and Cambridge, and by such distinguished performers as Thomas Hutchinson, Artur Cimirro and Gwion Thomas. Karen has composed music by commission or on request for CAMS, Hourglass Ensemble and the University of Bristol Schola Cantorum, and several of her works have been prizewinners in  composition competitions, including Gesualdo Six, the Renée B. Fisher Award and Opus Dissonus.  

As a performer, though Karen is a pianist by training (having studied at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music with Albert Landa and Adene McInnes), she was most active as a chorister and vocalist, notably as a foundation and lifetime member of the Sydney-based new music choir The Contemporary Singers and as founder and director of and arranger for the pop-jazz a cappella ensemble The Five Skins. Karen has worked as a lecturer in Musicology at the University of Sydney and the University of Tasmania, and enjoys Associate Artist representation with the Australian Music Centre. She currently divides her time between Australia and France. Website: 

White Parasol (2008) Ian Dicke, b. 1982

White Parasol was written in reaction to a 2008 BBC news article about the major loss of shelf-ice in  Canada’s High Arctic: 

“Loss of ice in the Arctic, and in particular the extensive sea-ice, has global implications. The ‘white  parasol’ at the top of the planet reflects energy from the Sun straight back out into space, helping to cool  the Earth. Further loss of Arctic ice will see radiation absorbed by darker seawater and snow-free land,  potentially warming the Earth’s climate at an even faster rate than current observational data indicates.” 

Ian Dicke is a composer inspired by social-political culture and interactive technology. Praised for his  “refreshingly well-structured” (Feast of Music) and “uncommonly memorable” (Sequenza 21) catalogue of works, Dicke currently serves as an Associate Professor of Composition at the University of California, Riverside. His music has been commissioned and performed by ensembles and soloists around the world, including the New World Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Paul Dresher Ensemble, pianist Vicky Chow, The MATA Festival, ISCM World New Music Days, and the Atlantic Coast Center Band Director’s Association. He has received grants, awards, and recognition from the Fulbright Program, Barlow Endowment, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, New Music USA, New York Youth Symphony, ASCAP, and BMI, among others. 

In addition to his creative activities as a composer, Dicke is also the founder and curator of the Outpost Concert Series, which connects Riverside’s musical culture with groundbreaking artists across the national contemporary music landscape. For more information on works in progress, upcoming performances, commissioning, and score purchases, please visit 

Plain Song (2015) Judith Shatin, b. 1949
I. Plain Song
IV. Tutta Gloria

One day while I was driving my car, listening to NPR, I heard a voice say ‘Live life as though you were already dead, Che Guevara declared.’ My responses, seemingly simultaneous, were: ‘fantastic line,’ and ‘wait, I know that voice – it’s Charles.’ I also knew that I would like to find a way to set it, incorporating his voice. As luck would have it, I knew Charles Wright. While we both taught at UVA, we met when we were fellows at the Rockefeller Center at Bellagio in 1990 and became friends over the years. 

I already knew his poetry and was taken right away with the quality of his voice: gravelly, with a soft southern flavor, not to mention the wryness and wit of his conversation. Still, I was hesitant to ask whether he would consider recording some of the poems from his new collection Caribou, and allow me to compose a piece built around them. But, I did ask, and he agreed, and we had a fine time in The Sound recording studio in Charlottesville. Mark Graham was the sound engineer, and composer Joe Adkins, assisted. I decided to compose Plain Song, named for one of the four poems, and to score the piece for piano and fixed media stereo electronics made from the recordings of his readings. 

These meditative poems deal with loss and death, and at the same time, with gratitude and life. They reflect his wide-ranging interests, from ancient Chinese poetry to country music! Plain Song is dedicated, with gratitude, to Charles Wright.

1. Plain Song

Where is the crack, the small crack, where the dead come out and go back in?

Only the dead know that

The speechless and shifting dead

But it does ooze, half-inch by half-inch, under the doorway of dejection,

Under the brown, arthritic leaves

The clock strikes

But the hands don’t move

The nightbirds outside our window are gone away

The halo around the quarter moon means no good

Is this the hour of our undoing?

If so, we are perfected.

 IV. Tutta Gloria

I’ve been sitting here thinking back over my life. 

We are all going into a world of dark,

And that’s o.k., given the wing-wrung alternative

It’s okay. 

That’s where the secrets are, 

The big ones, the ones too tall to tell.

The way in is twisty and torturous, 

But easy, they say, easy.

The way out, however, is unavailable, and not to be mimed.

Hard to remember when the full moon offers its efficacy downwind through the winter weeds, 

Unpeeling its limitless hope. 

But not, at least for tonight, for us.

Not for us, bystanders back from the river of light. 

So file down your fingertips, boys, and pull on your skins. 

Incandescence is temporary, we know, but it still shines. 

And that’s it. 

My life has been spent trying to leave it. 

As though an invisible figure in a Schneeman landscape of Tuscany, 

I’ve always wanted to be elsewhere, 

Hair on fire, a radiance undeniable, 

My shoes golden, 

My heart tucked away, back under my shirtsleeves. 

Not now, not ever, the world in winter. 

And this is what comforts us, 

bare trees, bare streets, bare expectations. 

Our lives are spent here, 

Our ho-hum and sweet existential lives, 

Stories of cirrus and cumulus 

And why not, this world has been good to us,

The sun goes up, and the sun goes down. 

The stars release and disappear, 

Everything Tutta Gloria

Wherever we turn our faces. 

Composer Judith Shatin is renowned for her richly imagined music, seamlessly spanning the acoustic and digital realms and often combining the two. Called “highly inventive on every level” by The Washington Post, her music combines an adventurous approach to timbre with dynamic narrative design. She draws on expanded instrumental palettes and a cornucopia of the sounding world, from machines in a coal mine to animal calls, to the shuttle of a wooden loom. Her project Quotidian Music draws attention to the sounds of the world around us, while orchestral pieces such as Singing the Blue Ridge and Ice Becomes Water focus on the crisis of climate change. She creates music for a wide range of performers, from those with no musical training to virtuosos, believing that the joy of music-making should be open to all.

Text setting drawn from a broad range of sources is also a major focus for Shatin. A few examples include the humorous Marvelous Pursuits (vocal quartet and piano 4-hands, poetry by Barbara Goldberg), I Love (SATB, poetry by Gertrude Stein), Hark My Love (SATB + piano, the Song of Songs), and Vayter un Vayter (Bass, clarinet, cello, piano, poetry of Avraham Sutzkever). A focus on our challenged environment plays an increasing role in her music, as in For the Birds for amplified cello and electronics created from processed birdsong. Ice Becomes Water for string orchestra and electronics fashioned from field recordings of melting glaciers, is a lament for the melting of glaciers and their impact on our global ecology.

Shatin’s music has been honored with four National Endowment for the Arts Composer Fellowships as well as grants from the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. A two-year retrospective of her music at Shepherd College, WV, was sponsored by the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Arts Partners Program. It included four week-long residencies devoted to her music, with each involving her in multiple activities with local community groups. The project culminated in the premiere of her folk oratorio COAL, an evening-length work for chorus, Appalachian ensemble, keyboard synth, and electronic playback, with a libretto by the composer.

Educated at Douglass College (Phi Beta Kappa, Julia Carlie Prize in Composition), The Juilliard School (MM., Abraham Ellstein Award), and Princeton University (MFA, Ph.D.), Judith Shatin is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia, where she founded the Virginia Center for Computer Music and led the program to national prominence.

Those Who Watch (2020) Gunter Gaupp, b. 1993

In the last few years, my experience of the world has been colored by a dull but constant sense of climate  change anxiety. That sense of dread is dramatically worsened whenever I encounter clips of news pundits  actively spreading misinformation and openly mocking the efforts of environmentalists. Accordingly, Those  Who Watch attempts to present four distinct perspectives in the spread of climate change denial through the  lens of my own anxiety while also trying to critically examine my engagement with misinformation as a distraction from forward progress. 

In the piece’s electronic accompaniment, voices of news anchors and billionaires who profit from fossil fuel  consumption swirl in a cacophonous cloud of mischaracterizations and misquoted statistics. Meanwhile, the  voices of scientists and activists like Wallace Broecker form the bedrock of the piece’s sonic landscape,  distorted beyond understanding and only truly audible in moments of quiet sincerity. The soloist, then,  serves as a mouthpiece for my anxiety as the piano stews in its own angst, screams into the void, and ignores  a path to meaningful change. 

Gunter Gaupp is a composer and teacher based in Memphis, TN, whose work combines interests in noise composition and genre music. Born in Louisiana, Gunter’s recent work maintains a connection to jazz and folk traditions in his approach to melody and harmony, while exploring new possibilities through extended technique and graphic notation. His music has premiered recently in Chicago, Memphis, and Green Bay, as well as internationally in Vienna and Paris. 

Gunter completed his MM in 2019 at the University of Memphis, where he studied composition under Kamran Ince and John Baur. More recently, Gunter has begun teaching music to middle and high school students at Memphis Rise Academy. 

Ann DuHamel Bio 

Pianist Ann DuHamel’s performances have been praised as poetic and “… a delight for the ears and the soul”  (Encuentro Universitario Internacional de Saxofón, Mexico City). She has performed in 18 countries, including  concerts at Sala Verdi in Milan, Italy; the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland; Carnegie Weill Recital Hall in New  York; and Trinity College in Oxford, England.  

Hailed as a “forward thinking classical pianist” (Midwest Record) for her debut album Rückblick: New Piano Music  Inspired by Brahms (Furious Artisans, 2020), Ann actively champions contemporary composers, recently  commissioning works by Flannery Cunningham, Jocelyn Hagen, and Edie Hill, among others. Piano Magazine applauded “the depth of programming and playing” in Rückblick, admiring Ann’s “range of sound and full melodic tone,” as well as her “clear voicing and vibrant sense of color.” Dr. Brahms’s Book of Rags, which appears on the album, was a finalist in The American Prize in Piano Performance, 2021, and received a Special Judges’ Citation:  “Championing the Music of Marc Chan.”  Rückblick was also a finalist for Best Album in the 2022 Petrichor International Music Competition.

Ann can be heard on the 2022 release Tyler Kline: Orchard (Neuma Records, 2022), performing six works of Kline, five of which she commissioned. Fanfare Magazine praised her performance as “alive … [played with] aching expression.” Tracks from Rückblick and Orchard have been featured on WFMT (Chicago), WRUW (Cleveland), WSMR (Tampa), WMBR (Cambridge, MA), WYSO (Ohio), XRAY-FM (Portland, Oregon), and Minnesota Public Radio. 

In demand as a collaborative pianist, Ann has performed chamber music with members of both the Grammy-Award winning Minnesota Orchestra and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as with Martha Councell-Vargas, flute; Preston Duncan, saxophone; Maria Jette, soprano; and Clara Osowski, mezzo-soprano. Her performance at Carnegie Weill Recital Hall with ensemble: Périphérie was hailed by the New York Concert Review as “outstanding,” praising the group of “superb musicians” who “played with power and assurance.”

Ann’s latest project, “Prayers for a Feverish Planet,” responds to the climate crisis with 60+ new works, from  composers across the globe, for piano and piano/electronics. During the Fall of 2022, she was awarded artist residencies at Tofte Lake Center (MN) and Everwood Farmstead Foundation (WI) for this project, which has also received extensive support from the University of Minnesota (Institute for Advanced Study Residential Fellow, Fall 2021; Imagine Fund Special Events Grant; and Grant-In-Aid of Research, Artistry, and Scholarship). She has been interviewed about the project on Modern Notebook Radio (WSMR) and Minnesota Public Radio’s All Things Considered with Tom Crann. By the end of her current sabbatical she’ll have performed portions of the project more than 50 times, including for the Chamber Music Society of St Cloud (MN), Nakamichi Concert Series (Easton, MA), Outpost Concert Series (Riverside, CA), Old First Concert Series (San Francisco, CA), the Pipino Perfoming Arts Series (Youngstown, OH), and Wayward Music Series (Seattle, WA). 

An active member of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association for almost 25 years, Ann is Immediate Past President of the organization. Some of her most important contributions on the MMTA Board of Directors include initiating a Diversity-Equity-Inclusion committee, as well as ushering forth a Land Acknowledgement to honor the Indigenous people and cultures from Minnesota. She’s performed and presented at conferences for Music Teachers National Association, the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers, the European Piano Teachers Association, the College Music Society, and the International Conference for the Fantastic in the Arts, as well as Music, Sound and Climate Justice Conversations 2022 and the Society for American Music. She will be a featured PEDx speaker at the 2023 National Conference on Keyboard Pedagogy. Ann is currently Associate Professor of Music at the University of Minnesota Morris, where she devotes herself to the mission of sharing high quality traditional and contemporary classical music with students and the greater community.