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Utah's Foremost Platform for Undergraduate Research Presentation
2020 Abstracts

Collaboration and the Environment: Music as a Model for Social Change

Barker, Kirsten; Wheeler Roderer, Laurana (Utah State University)

The collaborative nature of music, where individual action is essential to the success of the whole, provides a model which can affect viewpoints on climate change. This model has already been utilized in global environmentalist movements such as Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future. The collaborative approach taken in the creation of new pieces of music can be used to address climate change. We commissioned a chamber opera for three voices and string quartet that addresses the systemic issues surrounding the global climate emergency. The topic of our presentation will be the collaborative process involved in this project, specifically how we have reconciled the abstract nature of music and the technical jargon associated with scientific concepts.

Opera can highlight and expound on the dramatic message of a text and also enhance its emotional undercurrent. For centuries, the powerful and elite considered opera to be a “high art” form because of these communicative abilities. By turning this context on its head, we used the genre to comment on the consumption-based systems that have led to and perpetuated our current climate crisis. This is especially relevant given the traditionally close ties between the fossil fuel industry and the fine arts in the United States (for example, the long sponsorship of New York’s Metropolitan Opera by Exxon-Mobil). In focusing on the idea of collaboration, this new piece of music becomes an exemplar of the efforts required to create a sustainable world.