scorecardEver wondered what climate change "sounds" like? This six-minute orchestral piece was made from decades of climate data!
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Ever wondered what climate change "sounds" like? This six-minute orchestral piece was made from decades of climate data!

Ever wondered what climate change "sounds" like? This six-minute orchestral piece was made from decades of climate data!
SustainabilitySustainability1 min read
Most of us have experienced the sharp discomfort of opening a report only to find endless data overflowing across the pages. While charts and diagrams have made data more digestible, imagine experiencing it in a more captivating way.

Japanese geo-environmental scientist Hiroto Nagai has achieved just that with his groundbreaking composition, "String Quartet No. 1 'Polar Energy Budget'”. Using three decades of climate data from the Arctic and Antarctic, Nagai created a six-minute string quartet played by a four-person group using violins, a viola, and a cello.

Nagai's aim was to convey the complexities of climate change through music, using publicly-available data from polar locations between 1982 and 2022. This included measurements of radiation, precipitation, temperature, and cloud thickness. Nagai assigned musical elements, such as instrument, pitch, and intervals, to each data point, crafting a piece that was both captivating and informative.

While creating the piece was challenging, so was performing it. Violinist Haruka Sakuma described it as initially difficult to memorise and play due to its contemporary nature. Despite the challenges, Sakuma's PRT quartet triumphantly premiered the piece at Waseda University in Tokyo last year.

The composition captivates listeners from beginning to end. As the sturdy cello sets the rhythm in the opening section, the violins add a layer of eerie tension, mirroring the intense and growing climate anxieties of recent decades. In a world grappling with climate change, Nagai's work aims to spark curiosity and deepen our connection to environmental issues.

You can listen to a version of the piece here, which also helps break down the climate data conversion into meaningful sheet music.

The research findings have been published in iScience and can be accessed here.

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