Juneau events present music for the science of climate change

Scientists work on the Juneau ice field. The research from their work has been turned into a musical composition that will be presented at a concert in Juneau. (Photo by Joanna Young)

Juneau, Alaska (KINY) – Scholars at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have teamed up with the Juneau Composers Consortium and the Con Brio Chamber Series for a program of original musical works that interpret climate research.

“Climate Soundscapes” will premiere in two concerts in Juneau – 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18 at Ḵunéix̱ Hídi Northern Light United Church and 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 at the State Department of Libraries , archives and museums building atrium. Entry is pay as you go.

UAF climate researchers will also give a scientific talk at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, in Alaska Southeast University’s Egan Lecture Hall.

After Saturday’s performance, audiences can join musicians, composers and scientists at Amalga Distillery to learn more about the project and enjoy a climate change cocktail created for the event.

The project is the brainchild of Kaja Brix, associate professor at UAF’s International Arctic Research Center; Marta Lastufka, vocalist; and Mike Bussey, Lastufka’s husband and founder of the Juneau Composers Consortium.

“We saw this as a way for the impact of climate change to resonate literally,” Brix recalls. “We wanted to connect communities — science and music, Juneau and Fairbanks, people of all backgrounds — on something that matters to all of us in Alaska.”

The team hopes the unique program, organized by Sally Schlichting, Artistic Director of the Con Brio Chamber Series, will spark discussion, thought and action.

“When Mike approached me about producing a program of these works, I simply couldn’t say no to such a wildly creative and thought-provoking idea,” said Schlichting. “I knew right away that the intersection of science and music would engage diverse audiences in our community.”

“Glacial Pathways,” a composition in the program, comes from a partnership between glaciologist Joanna Young and composer William Todd Hunt. The music lets people hear how the timing and volume of nutrient-rich glacial meltwater is affected by climate change.

The composition concludes with two possible paths for the future of Alaska’s glacial rivers — one if the glaciers continue to shrink, and another, more hopeful alternative, demonstrating the renewal of glacier meltwater if humanity collectively reverses the course of climate change.

“Working on this collaboration feels in many ways like working on a ballet with a choreographer,” Hunt said. “I got to play with musical ideas that could reflect her work and give life and movement to aspects of her research.”
The compositions will be performed by Juneau musicians, with ensembles ranging from a piano duo with strings to a complement of 12 instruments. Between performances, scientist-composer pairs will introduce each work and bring concertgoers closer to science.

The seven Juneau-based composers are Bussey, Rob Cohen, Hunt, Ben Holtz, Beth Leibovitz, Artemio Sandoval and Ty Wolverton. The six scientists are Vladimir Alekseev, Olivia Lee, Young, Dina Abdel Fattah and Javier Focesato, all of UAF, and Heidi Pearson of UAS.

The project is supported in part by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council; City and Borough of Juneau; Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum; Amalga Distillery; Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center; and International Arctic Research Centre.

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