In the Age of the Rise
soprano, fl, cl, perc, pno, vln, vc
Commissioned by Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players
Premiere Nov. 7, 8, 2019, Stony Brook and NYC
Three songs imagining life in the future of climate change
1. In all of the possible futures
2. The bear and the butterfly
3. The last ones out
In the Age of the Rise is a set of three songs dealing with the strangeness of imagining one's future amid the global destabilization wrought by climate change. It can be difficult, intellectually and emotionally, to reconcile the large-scale threat climate change poses to earth’s most complex systems with the small-scale events of daily life and one’s individual plans and dreams. These songs are snapshots of my attempts to navigate this conceptual gulf between the epochal and the personal. Each song presents a scenario in which the specific ecological catastrophe of sea level rise has occurred in some measure, and describes that scenario in terms of its personal implications for individual protagonists.
"In all of the possible futures" hints at the family dynamics of intergenerational trauma that will increasingly arise from climate-related natural disasters and collapses of communities and social systems. "The bear and the butterfly" is a ballad that poses a monarch butterfly and a polar bear as climate refugees fleeing environmental changes that threaten their survival. In "The last ones out", I imagine closing up the family cabin my great-grandparents built on the coast of Maine, knowing it will not survive an impending storm.
I have located these scenarios in the future, as “how to think and feel about the future” is the preoccupation that, for me, engendered the piece. But climate-related displacement, trauma, loss, and grief are already realities of the present and the past. Though these songs are in some sense “about” the future in a world of higher sea levels, they are really about the present: they attempt to process and make graspable the reality and immediacy of destruction already occurring, which portends its own near-inevitable replication on a larger and larger scale.