What if We? will be premiered in Washington DC at the World Bank Building Resilience event on Tuesday, October 29,, followed by a second performance at the Forest Trends’ 20th Anniversary celebration the following night. The piece was composed by ASCAP Award-winning composer Wendy Loomis in collaboration with her band COPUS and science organization The ClimateMusic Project.
The 10-minute piece is a reflection on sea level rise over the course of this Century. It begins with the worst case scenario represented musically with driving rhythms and minor chords interspersed with fictional but science-based newscast headlines from the year 2045 and sonifications derived from a reference study on climate change and sea level rise. After a long drum-driven crescendo, the piece breaks abruptly into youth singing: “what if we? - what if we - what if we… change?”
The second half of the work is more optimistic with the synthesizer sound switching to piano, the chord structure becoming more melodic and major, the rhythm more gentle, and the sonifications more harmonious. This is the mitigated section representing a more optimistic scenario in which humans take aggressive action now to rein in emissions. The lyrical poem “The Eagle’ by poet Royal Kent makes a powerful statement about the beauty and necessity of preserving our natural world. What if We? concludes with the youth repeating their questions.
Composer/oianist Wendy Loomis and poet/spoken word artist Royal Kent formed COPUS two decades ago. COPUS is an acronym for Creation Of Peace Under Stars. They have always dedicated themselves to using their music and words to effect positive change. The Bay Area-based band has received awards and nominations for its provocative poetic jazz; they have performed throughout the U.S. at places including The Bitter End in New York, SFJazz in San Francisco, and the Cutting Edge Festival in New Orleans. The quartet includes bassist Patrick Mahon and drummer Levon Washington.
The ClimateMusic Project communicates the urgency of action on the climate crisis by combining climate science with the emotional power of music to drive meaningful action. COPUS connected with the project last year during their event “Play for the Planet” which was associated with the Global Climate Summit in San Francisco.
Berkeley-based filmmaker Kim Anno was the final piece of the labyrinth of What if We? In conjunction with the score, she created a 10-minute video that visually depicts the various results from climate change. Raised near the ocean on the west side of Los Angeles, Kim Anno came of age in the political flux of the 1970s; her father was a beatnik physicist and her mother a nurse and civil rights activist. Her artistic expression first as a painter and now filmmaker was a natural fit with The ClimateMusic Project and COPUS.