The Climate Symphony

Script by Marty Quinn

Hello, my name is Marty Quinn and welcome to The Climate Symphony. Now some of you may be saying to yourself: "I didn't know the climate played music?" or maybe "What conservatory did it attend? Where did it take lessons?" or "What instrument does it play?" Some may even observe "the climate already is a symphony!" And if we consider its daily warmups and exercises, I would have to agree, the climate already is a kind of symphony. And what instruments does it play?

Still, the climate never took lessons. The earth never played in a big band.

Well, maybe not in a big band, but what about the big bang. Does that count? (play amazing sounds) Self-taught most likely. Yes, there is inspiration in sound all around us and even inside us. In your own heartbeat (play low drum); in our genetic makeup; (add sample of DNA); even the smile of your friend (add zing).

Is this the music of our sphere; the music that comes out of the interaction of elements or that emerges out of our emotions, our love, our longing, our sadness, our striving, our joy?

Or is there another music of our planet which is just out of reach, just out of hearing, like the sounds elephants recognize, but which are too low for us to hear.

But if we could hear this music, what would it sound like? What biorhythms are being played by this great earth of ours? What geophysical and astronomical cycles of nature are there to be heard? Indeed, this symphony contains rhythms whose time signatures span not seconds, but lifetimes. Imagine that you were in the choir of that symphony. (now singing) How long do I have to hold these notes for? In fact, the measures of the Climate Symphony last anywhere from 10 lifetimes up to 1000 lifetimes. Nay, over a hundred thousand years. This is the Climate Symphony you will hear today.

The Meeting with the Ice Man.

I met Dr. Paul Mayewski, the Ice Man (slide 1), about 5 years ago when I was invited to attend a meeting at his home just down the street from where we lived in New Hampshire. I was told that Paul (slide 2) was the Director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New Hampshire and that he would be giving a slide presentation on the Greenland Ice Sheet Project (slide 3). I had heard that Paul was involved with glaciers and was curious to find out more about it and so I decided to go.

This is what the Ice Man said:

[The Glacial Story]

(move: grab sticks and both hands move up and go into figure 8s) It all began 110,000 years ago in the center of Greenland. It was so cold that when it snowed, the snow would never melt. As each flake fell, (move: single hand 8s, lean while left hand behind right and then vice versa) it would carry into its frozen kingdom, part of whatever happened to be in the air at the time. For you see, as the wind raced across the oceans (move: cut left, let fabric trace straight, then start 8s in parallel, not too far apart) it would pick up the smell of the sea, and as the wind roamed over the hills and valleys (move: full round one way, then other way) and coastlines it would pick up the dust of the earth, the dust of life. It would carry volcanic ash (move: both up in center parallel as in an explosion, with circular cloud like movements descending) into its frozen tomb, to be remembered forever, as a trace of its past, fiery glory. It would even carry traces of the sun's light (move: forward and back in polyrhythm of 3 over 4) as it waxes and wanes in its polyrhythmic dance of atomic fire.

Each year (slide), the snow would fall on the prior years snow and build up layers and layers and layers and layers, (slide) (move: grab the white cloth and start to raise it very slowly) just like the layers of growth you can see in the rings of a tree. As the snow fell, it started to get deeper, and deeper and deeper (slide) and deeper, (move: now the white goes over the head and the arms reach in and begin to push it up to its highest position) and the snow on the bottom would get more and more compressed (slide ), until after 110,000 years, (slide) the snow was as high as a mountain and two miles thick (slide ).

Then beginning in 1989,(move: move to get to slide) (slide of drill dome) the Ice Man, along with a group of researchers from around the world, drilled down into this mountain of ice (slide of drill) , and extracted a column nearly two miles long. As each piece was extracted, they began to analyze what the ice had stored away for us (slide of core), waiting to tell us, forever holding in its icy embrace, traces of what the climate was like on earth across the breadth of time.

And what were these traces? (slide of chemical series) The ice man showed a graph depicting the ups and downs of the chemical residues found in the ice core. Through further mathematical analysis, they were able to determine what natural forces seem to be causing the climate.

As I looked at all the data all I saw was so many squiggly lines; I felt that it didn't convey the beauty, the life of the earth. I felt like it should be more, it should be experienced, it should be music! (slide of climate symphony).

(now moving center, then down right) The question to me was how to portray the patterns in nature using patterns in music. You see that's the problem, (gesturing right) I mean solution. (gesturing left) I mean (gesturing right) how do you turn information that resides in data files and that are represented by numbers that might be positive or negative, like our left and right hands, and that might be related to one another, like you and I are related, or unrelated or dependent or independent and that have come from sensors or analysis and that have incredible ranges of values or represent time or measurments of all kinds, into music. (pause)

How do you do that? Well, it's simple really. We assign the lowest value in a file to a low pitch (sound), and the highest value in a file to the highest pitch (sound) and choose notes in between to represent values in between (sound: play a bit using a scale object).

Now let's see how this can be applied to the ice core data.(slide of ice core being cut)

The Ice Man's drill removes a portion of ice from the ice sheet (go and pick up the cylinder containing the ice core and carry it to the table) and it is cut in various lengths and catalogued (open it up to show a portion of the ice core). Each piece is ultimately examined in 50 different ways, (slide) 10 of which are used to determine the year it formed.

(slide) (move to slide display center stage and point out 2 or 3 chemical ids) Each part is tested for the chemical traces it contains. (move into slide light and say:) Remember, that if we know the origins of these chemical tracers, we can use them to tell us about conditions on earth at the time they were deposited in the snow.

To translate this kind of data into music, we will convert concentration levels to pitch: the higher the concentration, (USE high VOICE ) the higher the pitch ; (USE normal VOICE ) the lower the concentration, (USE low VOICE) the lower the pitch. (back to normal voice) To differentiate one chemical from the rest, we'll use a different instrument sound for each one. (move to station)

Remember the story? As the winds blew over the water, it picked up the salts of the sea. These salts include Sodium (NA) (Play sodium and then move to point it out in the slide, then point out cloride and return to station to play cloride)

As the wind blew over the land, it picked up calcium in the form of limestone dust, and Magnesium.

Forest fires generate Nitrate NO3, Ammonium NH4, and Potassium K.

And, finally, volcanoes generate sulfate.

Now let's listen to the chemicals after we convert this data to music. We'll listen to a small portion of the data taken from a period called the Younger Dryas Event (Slide of younger dryas) (and go over to it to point out the time sequence during the next words), that occurred about 14000 years to 12000 years ago when the earth suddenly got colder.

(Go back to station and get MD ready during next line) The duration of each note you hear represents 5 years. (play file) (as music plays go over to the slide and point out where it is starting and say) Do you hear that, that's the temperature getting colder. Ok now get ready and raise your hand when you hear the pitch get lower again and the temperature warms back up. Great.

OK, so we know we can represent the data values as notes out of scales and differentiate the different chemicals using different instruments.

This picture represents knowledge that the scientists acquired from studying the chemical data. They discovered regular patterns in the climate that were over 70,000 and as short as 500 years. For instance, they noticed that every 6300 years, the ice sheets move down and up over the earth's surface. They could see the effect of the changing tilt of the earth over 40,000 years and they could see that the change in the shape of the orbit of the earth around the sun over more than 70,000 years was a major factor in climate change. I challenged myself to come up with a way to hear these patterns of nature as patterns of music.

For instance, consider the 550 year solar intensity cycle. Instead of using a scale of pitches, I chose to represent the sun's intensity as a scale of melodic patterns. (change slide to sun cycle) The hotter the sun, the higher the melodies, the cooler the sun, the lower the melodies.

(change slide of ice sheets) For the ebb and flow of the ice sheets, I decided to use rhythmic patterns of tom toms and cowbells. When the ice sheets are fully expanded you will hear cowbells, and when contracted you will hear tom toms.

(change slide of volcanic) For the volcanic activity, I chose to use cymbal crashes and kettle drums that increase or decrease in volume depending on intensity. In the case of the kettle drums, the lower the pitch, the more intense the volcano.

(change slide of earth's wobble) For the earth's wobble, which causes some summers to be hotter and some winters to be colder than others, I chose to represent these changes with a scale of pitches with the sound of an organ, the low pitch representing minimal influence and the high pitches representing maximum influence.

(change slide of earth's tilt) The changing tilt of the earth, a 40,000 year cycle, is a changing 3 note arpeggio, the greater the tilt, the higher the notes in the arpeggio.

(change slide of earth's eliptical orbit) And finally, the slight change in the earth's eliptical orbit around the sun, transposes all the other music up to 7 steps higher and lower depending on the increasing or decreasing eliptical shape of the orbit.

OK we're ready to play the Climate Symphony. We'll begin 110,000 years ago and travel through time at the rate of 50 years per beat. We'll start slowly at first, moving through 150 years a second for the two minutes or 20,000 years, and then increase speed by two times to a rate of 350 years a second. Ladies and gentleman fasten your seat beats and put your tray tables in the upright and locked position and your minds in the unlocked position. Our sonic flight through the ice core will take a little over 7minutes. We hope you enjoy the trip.