Want a visceral sense of how much temperatures around the Northern Hemisphere are deviating from average? Well, have a listen. University of Minnesota geography student and super cello player Daniel Crawford has composed a two-and-a-half minute piece for string quartet that let’s you hear the temperature change from 1880 to 2014. The tones in the early years feel placid and regular but from 1950 on they depart more from the norm, and they become notably scattered from the 1990s through 2014.
In the video, titled Planetary Bands, Warming World, each instrument represents a region of the hemisphere. The cello plays the data from the equatorial zone, the viola the mid-latitudes, one violin the high latitudes and another violin the Arctic. The pitch of each note represents the average annual temperature of the region for the relevant year. For example, a high note on the violin means warm weather in the Arctic; a low note on the cello means cold weather along the equator. Blend all four, and you can hear how temperatures fluctuate across the hemisphere and how much they have risen.
Crawford partnered with geography professor Scott St. George to create a video of the composition, performed by students Julian Maddox, Jason Shu, Alastair Witherspoon and Nygel Witherspoon at the university’s School of Music. As the four artists, seated left to right facing the viewer, play the piece the years tick by below them in time with the notes, and the temperature of each of the zones scrolls by above the musician, along with a slick little graphic that swings up and down to show the relative change year to year.
I met Crawford two years ago at a climate meeting, where he unveiled a solo composition he had done just for cello, based on the same data. To hear a brief Q&A with him, and to hear him play his original composition, A Song for Our Warming Planet, which he did privately for me the day he announced it, you can listen to my podcast from August 2013.
Credits: Support for the video was provided by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment and the College of Liberal Arts. The video was produced by Mighteor.