The notion is simple: one note per year from 1880 to 2012 – the coldest year set to the lowest note (open C) on the cello; the warmest set three octave higher. The result: a haunting, atonal hymn that almost gives the impression of a planet crying out in distress.
Daniel Crawford, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, wanted to express climate change in a way that didn’t use graphs and spreadsheets. So he talked to a geography professor and then composed (or perhaps, better, transposed) the planet’s annual average temperatures into notes.
“Climate scientists have a standard toolbox to communicate their data,” Crawford says. “We’re trying to add another tool to that toolbox, another way to communicate these ideas to people who might get more out of music than maps, graphs and numbers.”
It is, of course, an “Unfinished Sonata.” And Crawford adds that if, as expected, the planet continues its warming trend, and is 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter by the end of this century, the notes, as plotted in this rendering, will have gone beyond the range of human hearing.