Fort Collins Festival Combines Music, Art, Climate Science For ‘Mission Earth’ | KUNC

Fort Collins Festival Combines Music, Art, Climate Science For ‘Mission Earth’

Jun 28, 2018

Bet you never thought about Mozart and methane going together, did you? One music festival is doing just that: combining classical music and climate science.

It might seem a little strange to some, but that’s kind of the idea, said Jephta Bernstein, executive artistic director for Off the Hook Arts. The Fort Collins music education program is using the theme Mission Earth for its SummerFest 2018 series.

“By highlighting both, we hope to capture people who are very intrigued by the music and then be exposed to the science, and people who might just come for the science and then experience the music,” Bernstein said. “Maybe make it -- the topic of climate change -- more compelling and highlight it in a way that makes it stick with people for longer than that two hours that we have you in the concert space.”

Piers Sellers takes a photo during the second of three Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) at the International Space Station.
Credit NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

The four-week festival includes a collection of concerts, lectures and art exhibitions that combine art, science and the humanities.

This year’s theme developed when installation artist Kate Doyle commissioned composer (and Off the Hook artistic director) Bruce Adolphe to compose the music for a piece she was putting together to honor the late astronaut and climate scientist Dr. Piers Sellers

“Ouroboros” combines video and animation with music and sounds from NASA satellites. Adolphe titled the piece after something Sellers wrote in a New York Times opinion piece about his time on the International Space Station: “I saw how fragile and infinitely precious the world is.”

At Friday’s world premiere, there will be a tribute to Sellers along with a panel discussion featuring the original team from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Many of the discussions include music by composers with a pioneering spirit.

“They were very advanced at the time they were written and very forward thinking,” Bernstein said.

A discussion on the impact of carbon cycles on the environment from Compton Tucker, senior scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, will be paired with a performance of composer Mario Davidovsky’s “Synchronisms No. 9 for Violin and Tape.” Davidovsky was known for pushing classical music boundaries to utilize acoustic and electronic sound.

Dr. Piers Sellers
Credit Rebecca Roth / NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Another concert will feature Alaskan composer John Luther Adams’ groundbreaking composition “Inuksuit.” The outdoor performance will feature 45 percussionists as well as the environment’s surrounding sounds. Attendees are typically encouraged to walk around to get the full experience.

“It related to the topic so well, we couldn’t imagine holding the festival this summer without that performance,” Bernstein said.

Off the Hook Arts' SummerFest Mission Earth runs through July 20, 2018.