07 Oct Our new suite about our living, breathing world
What we breathe in another breathed out, and what we breathe out another will breathe in. We’ve written a new composition portraying this fundamental exchange of life.
“We call the piece ‘Respiration: The Breath of Life and the Life of Breath,” says Graminy’s mandolinist, Mike Bell. “We wanted to write a piece that reflects on the consequences we all have for one another, human and non-human alike. And that portrays our living, breathing world, from the respiration of soil and plants to our own personal respiration.”
The piece is also based on the findings of scientists about changes in how the world is respiring: the increasing CO2 in our atmosphere. Respiration renders in music the measurements of atmospheric CO2 recorded daily on top of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii.
“Before we wrote the music, we met with scientists at UW-Madison,” says Graminy’s fiddler, Chris Wagoner. “We were looking at that CO2 graph from Mauna Loa, and how it goes up and up, which I knew about. But it also has an annual oscillation. There’s this sine wave wiggle in the graph that reflects all the plant growth in the northern hemisphere summer. I didn’t know about that.”
The northern hemisphere has more land mass, and thus more plants. When they grow in summer, CO2 drops. When they die and decay in winter, atmospheric CO2 goes back up, but always a bit higher than the previous year, mainly because of fossil fuel burning. Scientists call it the Keeling Curve after Charles Keeling, the scientist who first identified it.
“I’m looking at that sine wave and Gregg Sanford, an agroecologist at Madison, says to us ‘that’s the world breathing,’” Wagoner recalls.
“That’s when we knew we had a piece,” Bell says.
Respiration is supported by a commission from the Dane County Arts Commission, and is also supported by three local sustainable food and agriculture organizations: Community Groundworks, the Center for Resilient Cities, and the Wormfarm Institute.
A “pre-premiere” performance took place in Hillpoint, WI, on October 13th, 2018, as part of Fermentation Fest. The real premiere will be at the conclusion of the tenth SustainDane Summit on November, 2nd, in Madison, WI. You’ll have to register for the Summit to hear it, though.
But we’re sure to play it at our other concerts in the 2019 season. Check it out then, if you can’t make the SustainDane Summit!