Renowned musician Steven Schick and award-winning environmentalist/author Barry Lopez may seem like an unlikely pairing until you consider the long history of nature’s influence on art, including music. From Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” through Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony and Debussy’s “La Mer” to the works of Vaughan Williams, Olivier Messiaen, and John Cage (to name but a few), contemplation of the natural environment has provided inspiration to generations of composers.
In Music and Nature, musician Schick and environmentalist Lopez consider the myriad ways our shared natural milieu has shaped the arts, and how the arts may in turn heighten awareness of environmental issues. They reference as an example John Luther Adams, a contemporary American composer whose works routinely incorporate natural sounds and/or allude to the environment. (His Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral composition “Become Ocean” is based on the premise that if sea levels continue to rise, we will inevitably and quite literally “become ocean.”)
In the course of their talk the two men are able to cross the interstice that lays between their backgrounds – Schick’s as an Iowa farm boy and Lopez’s as the product of a New York upbringing – to find common ground in a philosophy that rejects an elitist or isolationist view of art, instead placing it firmly in the context of broader worldly concerns (e.g., climate change). This philosophy is reflected in the movement in educational circles from STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – to STEAM, the previous disciplines combined with Art/Design. It also plays a role in the renewed recognition that a liberal arts education has advantages in today’s workplace.
An hour in the company of Steven Schick and Barry Lopez will stimulate ideas and conversations of your own – and that’s an hour well-spent.
Contributed by Arts & Humanities Producer, John Menier