Climate Notes: Musical performances and interactive exhibition to explore our feelings around climate change

This September, the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne will host live musical performances and a free interactive exhibition, which explores our feelings around climate change.

On Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 September, highly acclaimed violinist Dr Anna McMichael and contemporary percussionist Dr Louise Devenish, both from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance, will perform six new compositions developed especially for Climate Notes and in response to the Is This How You Feel? web-based project.

“Angry, frustrated, hopeful, concerned, terrified, sad, motivated – these are some of the emotions that some of our leading climate scientists have expressed and which the composers are exploring in the new musical works,” says Dr McMichael.

The ‘Is This How You Feel?’ project was instigated by science communicator Joe Duggan in 2014 when he invited leading climate scientists to respond in handwritten letters to how they felt about climate change.

Dr McMichael’s father, the late Emeritus Professor Tony McMichael was a leading Australian scientist on climate change and human health. She honoured her father’s work, by teaming up with contemporary percussionist Dr Devenish to create Climate Notes. They commissioned six Australian composers; Damien Barbeler, Kate Moore, Bree van Reyk, Cathy Milliken, Daniel Blinkhorn and Dylan Crismani to compose new musical works responding to the original ‘Is This How You Feel?’ letters and their own feelings about climate change: in essence, to compose ‘musical letters’.

From 3 to 18 September, the Royal Botanic Gardens will also host the free Climate Notes exhibition which features these musical works for violin, percussion and electronics along with moving images featuring the State Botanical Collection and Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne.  Also on display will be images of the original letters as well as an invitation for visitors to write their own letter to add to the display.

“These compositions are essentially the musical equivalent to the handwritten letters by the climate scientists. We hope that they invite audience reflection as well as a sense of support and community,” says Dr Devenish.

The commissioned compositions include various instruments such as violin, vibraphone, electronics, percussion, aluminium bell plates, custom instruments and even field recordings of biomes (types of biological community such as aquatic, grassland, forest, desert, and tundra).

Climate Notes is presented by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria as part of Victoria Nature Festival. Tickets to the September 3 and 4 performances can be purchased via their website.

To read more about the Climate Notes project, visit Monash’s Climate Change Communication Research Hub’s website.