Oceans Eat Cities
By Neil Rolnick, with video by R. Luke DuBois
© 2015 by Neilnick Music

Performed by Quartet: This Side Up
At La Maison des Océans, Paris, France
4 December 2015

Paris Lavidis & Gabriello Lewis, violins; Amelia Krinke, viola; Boubacar Diallo, cello

This was one of the events surrounding the COP21 UN Climate Conference in Paris, and was presented by Climate Central climatecentral.org .

The piece is based on sea level rise data provided by Climate Central, and which you can see graphically at sealevel.climatecentral.org .

Musically the piece is two sets of variations. The first is based on a worst-case scenario of carbon emissions, and the second is based on a scenario of active curtailment of those emissions.

In each movement, the number of notes used from the initial theme is reduced by the percentage of population impacted by the locked-in sea level rise for the cities and dates seen in the video.  The amount of audio processing reflects relative sea-level rise in the years shown.

The images in the video illustrate sea levels to which we will be committed in the years stated, based on how much carbon we have released into the atmosphere.
Since carbon pollution continues to heat the planet – and raise sea levels – for hundreds of years after it is emitted, the sea level shown for the year 2100 is not the level we will see in that year, but the level which research indicates will unavoidably result from the carbon we’ve emitted by that date.

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Shout Box

  • Robert Goodman

    The passage starting at 9:36 always makes me cry. The whole piece captures exactly the experience of waking up, and that part's the dramatic bit where you come down from a dream and begin to integrate your thoughts with the waking world.

    by Robert Goodman

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