Musical Composition Humans on Earth - a Ballad of Our Time
by IEF member Christine Muller
The new musical composition "Humans on Earth - a Ballad of Our Time", written by IEF member Christine Muller, is looking for an orchestra that will play it. The piece is for soprano, baritone, string orchestra, piano, and percussion.
The two singers first lament about the big problems of our time - climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequality and human suffering. In the second part of the piece, the tone is getting more hopeful with a spiritual perspective. The lyrics contain quotations from scientific papers and from the Baha'i writings as well as words spontaneously written while composing the music. These are the lyrics:
Humans on Earth - a Ballad of Our Time
Baritone: The Earth is warming, quickly warming, it is getting out of balance, crazy climate, extreme conditions, droughts and floods and terrible storms! The Earth is warming, quickly warming, it is getting out of balance, acid oceans, melting arctic, sea levels rising, forests burning, the Earth is getting, out of balance, out of balance, - so!
Soprano: A wicked, a wicked, a wicked, wicked problem, a wicked problem no doubt. "The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms - including humanity - is so great that it is difficult to grasp even for well-informed experts." - https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcosc.2020.615419/full
Baritone: Where are the bees, where are the butterflies? Humanity has destroyed about half of all plants and 83% of wild mammals. (The biomass distribution on Earth, Yinon M. Bar-On et al., PNAS 19 June 2018)
Where are the bees, where are the butterflies? One million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction. Earth's life support systems are unraveling.
Soprano: So many people are suff'ring, from poverty and hunger and injustice all around. Now climate change makes things much worse, forcing them to leave their homes. They will lose their country and their culture, their community, and become climate refugees.
Baritone: "Sore-tried and disillusioned, humanity has no doubt lost its orientation." - Shoghi Effendi
Soprano: "But it need not be so!" All we need is a change of attitude, a change of heart, a change of consciousness to interconnectedness.
Baritone: "The welfare of any segment of society is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole." - Universal House of Justice, 1 March 2017 letter
Soprano and Baritone: We are one, yes, we are one, "The Earth is but one country." We are one, yes, we are one, "and mankind its citizens." - Baha'u'llah
Different sections are written in different classical styles, mostly in the Romantic style, but some are impressionistic with one brief reference to 12-tone music. The music is an expression of the text.
The piece begins with the strings plugging their instruments. They play the theme of the "wicked problem" which the soprano will pick up later. Climate change is often portrayed as a wicked problem because of its enormous complexity.
The two orchestral sections without voice (when the piano comes in) are based on the whole tone scales and paint the various problems with the oceans, especially sea-level rise and flooding.
When you hear the violins playing alone and you are thinking of insects buzzing - that's exactly the sound they are trying to paint. The increasing pauses illustrate the loss of the abundance and diversity of life. This will become clear when the baritone starts to sing "Where are the bees?""
The different musical themes come together toward the end in the polyphonic section "The welfare of any segment of society is inextricably bound up with the welfare of the whole."
The first part of the composition is quite emotional, expressing the destruction of nature and the suffering of people. The second part is more hopeful and aims to give positive energy.
You can download the score here and listen to an electronic version of the music here. The electronic audio does not convey the words and cannot adequately present the music, but it will give some flavor of how it may sound. The music is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License. Everyone can use CC-licensed materials as long as they follow the license conditions. If you know of an orchestra, a conductor, or singers who may be interested in playing the piece, please share the music with them. If you would like to receive the Finale file of the score or instrumental parts, just contact Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last updated 31 August 2021