Prayers for a Feverish Planet – Program Notes V.

Gunter Gaupp • Michael Genese • Robert Gross • Zach Gulaboff Davis • Yasha Hoffman

Gunter Gaupp, United States                                      

Those Who Watch (2020)

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.

Ann adds: This is one of my favorite pieces of the entire series — from the first time I heard it, I loved it. It reminds me a bit of JacobTV’s The Body of Your Dreams. I’ll have more to add here (e.g., bits of the text that you can hear in the electronics, such gems as “it’s a fart in the wind”); stay tuned.

Michael Genese, United States                       

Falling Down the Same Way Three Times (2019)

III. They hear your violence and they rise

Movement III starts post-fall, sitting at rock bottom with an uncomfortable sense of stasis. Anticipation builds and launches off, climbing wildly in persistent hope of undoing the fall that’s taken place. The music rises and plummets at varying degrees, grappling with the immense strength required for humanity to rise, and the inspiration of younger generations to ameliorate the mistakes made by those before us.

Ann adds: check back for my thoughts about this third movement.

Robert Gross, United States                                       

We Have Everything We Need (2020)

This piece is for piano and fixed media.  The fixed media part is comprised of two parts for Absynth 5 synthesizer, and a reading of the poem We Have Everything We Need, a poem about climate change by the British poet Selina Nwulu.  

Ann adds: for copyright reasons, I can’t type out the entire poem here; this penultimate stanza is really powerful:

I wonder what will this all look like in 50 years’ time.

How will our cities exhale then?

How will we wear our loss?

How will we sleep when we cannot turn our alarm clocks off?

Zach Gulaboff Davis, Macedonian-American           

Toward Hope (2020)                                                                                                

I. On Darkness                                                                                                

II. On Light

“Towards Hope: Two Reflections on the Climate Crisis” occupies a space between programmatic and absolute musical dialogue. Charting a narrative from dark-to-light, the contrasting movements invite the listener to contemplate the dire crisis ravaging our planet. The first movement, On Darkness, evokes the somber urgency of immediate action. A ray of hope ushers in the second movement, On Light, hinting that through darkness and perseverance, light can emerge. It is my wish that these interludes serve as a vessel for meaningful reflection, frosting a renewed sense of hope, purpose, and action. 

Ann adds: I choose this work for its reflective qualities.

Yasha Hoffman, United States                                               

451 (2021)

Since 1830, humans have released 450.98 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from fossil-fuel burning, cement manufacture, and gas flaring.* In this piece, every twenty seconds that elapses represents a decade of time, and each pitch that sounds represents 100 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. Our journey begins in 1830, with the 262 million tons of emissions created during that decade represented by 2 notes, and ends with the 2010s, with 97.432 billion tons represented by 974 notes.

It’s a coincidence that the emissions we have produced since 1830 happen to equal 451 billion tons, the figure after which Ray Bradbury titled his 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451, which he claims is “the temperature at which book paper catches fire, and burns…” How many emissions must we produce for the same to happen to our Earth?

*Data from the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions. Their data set includes data up until 2014; I have projected data from 2014-2019 according to the pattern of previous data.

Ann adds: This concept is really cool in terms of the representation. Also depressing as you hear the very long sustained notes grow ever faster, ever frenetic, becoming palmfuls of chaotic clusters. Some passages remind me of Beethoven (note: Yasha was my piano student years ago, maybe this is in memory of Rage Over a Lost Penny ?!) and some passages remind me of Stravinsky’s Petrushka.