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Dutch Composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven Makes Climate Change Audible in Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall
881 7th Ave, New York City, NY 10019, United States

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On September 18th, a new piece by the Dutch composer Merlijn Twaalfhoven will be heard in Carnegie Hall, New York. The concert is organized by the UN organization Sustainable Development Solutions Network and will focus on the need for a collaboration between art and science in the global change to sustainability. For the composition, "Four Drifting Seasons", Twaalfhoven has made use of temperature data, which NASA has recorded since 1880.

The piece has been developed together with students from the HKU (College of the Arts in Utrecht). The composers Jan Driessen and Killian Elbers found a way to translate this data into pitch and scores. Music technologist Marco Alkema, designed an app so that the complicated music can be performed by singers of all levels. On September 18th, the piece will be performed by the youth concert choir of Every Voice Choirs, led by Nicole Becker." 

Twaalfhoven: “By translating the data into vocal sounds, we make the rising of temperatures in the Northern hemisphere audible. We have not manipulated the numbers so there are no pleasant melodies or beautiful chords. The result is a pattern of abstract sounds, which changes noticeably. The young singers will experience an increased effort to sing the high notes towards the end. Like this, worldwide climate change will be physically felt.”

The idea was born when entrepreneur Martin Schuurman approached Twaalfhoven with the question: How could we express the reality of our climate problem in an affective way without relying on simplification or overly-used symbolism? Schuurman, skilled with numbers, gathered the charts and data sets. Twaalfhoven instantly saw music into it: a way which speaks to the heart instead of the mind.

The concert in Carnegie Hall is part of the International Conference on Sustainable Development, lead by professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University. The Sustainable Development Solutions Network consists of influential people from science, politics and the corporate world, who seek for concrete ways to make the world more sustainable.

About Merlijn Twaalfhoven

Twaalfhoven is known as one of the most innovative and adventurous composers in the Netherlands. In his work, Twaalfhoven looks for new connections between art, science and daily life. Earlier projects include an interactive vocal concert of twenty-four hours, a composition for and performed by hundreds of bassoons and a concert with both Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the rooftops on both sides of the border of Cyprus. "Four Drifting Seasons" will be Twaalfhoven's second project which will be heard in Carnegie Hall.

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