Climate Notes

This image shows two women standing in a dessert surrounded by musical instruments.

Climate Notes is a multimedia installation and performance project by Anna McMichael (violin) and Louise Devenish (percussion) from the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance. 

It builds on the Is This How You Feel project, a collection of handwritten letters from 50 leading international climate scientists created in 2014 and 2020. In 2020, Anna McMichael responded in place of her late father, Tony McMichael, a leading scientist on climate change and human health. This powerful collection of letters expresses both despair about lack of action, and hope for effective solutions.Climate Notes commissioned six Australian composers from five cities to write works evoking feelings about climate change and responding to the letters: in essence, to compose a ‘musical letter’.

These musical works for violin, percussion and electronics are brought together with moving images, including material from the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens collections. They are presented as part of this installation and in performances that combine the original letters from scientists with new music from composers, and to invite people to consider their own emotions surrounding the threat of climate change by writing their own letter and sharing it in the installation. 

In this project composers and performers reflect on these letters, bring musical life to pressed plant specimens, perform in place at Cranbourne Desert Gardens, improvise using discarded “flotsam and jetsam” such as styrofoam and plastic, build and perform on a “replica tree”, integrate field recordings of various natural biomes,  and use the existing natural environment as inspiration.
Understanding and withstanding a major challenge calls for emotional not just intellectual effort: feelings as well as facts, stories as well as statistics. Climate Notes propels us to consider what it feels like to live through a time when climate change affects every aspect of our lives.

A woman plays a collection of instruments with a backdrop of bushfires