Forest with music notes image

Nik Sawe has written a song about the effects of climate change on an Alaskan forest. But there are no lyrics. The meaning is in the notes themselves.

Sawe is a researcher at Stanford University – not a musician. But he helped his colleague, Lauren Oakes, convert her data into an orchestral arrangement: each tree species she studied is represented by an instrument and each individual tree, a note.

Sawe: “That note’s pitch is based on how tall the tree is. How hard that note is hit is based on its diameter at the base.”

And dead trees are marked by a dropped note – or moment of silence.

The song takes the listener from north to south through a 300-mile-long group of islands off the coast of Alaska. In thick, forested areas, the music is vibrant.

Listen to each note of this #ClimateChange orchestral arrangement. Click To Tweet

But in southern areas where snowpack has become thin, the roots of yellow cedar trees are exposed. Many have died, and other species are taking over. The notes become sporadic, and the instrumentation changes.

Sawe: “That gives kind of an intuitive sense of loss and of change that I think anybody can grab onto.”

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Image graphic: Created by David McCarthy.

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