The idea for La Crise came to me last month, as I listened to a playlist of Gabriel Fauré’s Romantic art songs. Fauré lived in a time before humans were aware of climate change, and many of his compositions highlight the beauty of nature: beauty, which at his time, was untainted by industrialization. One song in particular, Les Roses d’Ispahan, is an ode to the flora of Southern Europe and singing it last year made me question what Fauré’s outlook on nature might be if he lived today, in the midst of the climate crisis. I wrote La Crise in three movements to chronicle the long-term effects of humanity on the climate. The first movement of my piece, Le Monde de Gabriel, describes the world as Fauré experienced it in the 1800s: lush, flowering and fertile. The second movement of La Crise is a picture of Earth today: a dying planet. Le Monde du Futur, the third and final movement of La Crise, describes how I imagine Earth in a millennium, postapocalyptic, lifeless, and razed to the ground.
I made a series of intentional musical choices to achieve my desired atmosphere in each movement. Le Monde de Gabriel is largely based on the melody of Les Roses d’Ispahan, as I wanted to emulate Faure’s style while composing a picture of his world. I set Le Monde de Gabriel in a major key and it is very tonally satisfying. No chords are dissonant, and the quick tempo and driving cello ostinato present throughout most of the piece suggest life and vivacity. In each movement of La Crise, I imagine a rainstorm. In Le Monde de Gabriel, this begins in measure 8, as the first violin part accompanies the second violin melody with seven bars of eighth-note runs. The rain is light and nonintrusive to the melody. It is specified as piano and follows the chord progression of the second violin and cello parts, a subtle and gentle depiction of what storms looked like before the climate crisis. Le Monde de Gabriel has moments of repetition: the first two bars of the first violin melody are repeated in measures 16 and 17, and the first violin part in measure 6 is repeated by the second violin in measure 25. I deliberately brought these motifs back to give the song singable, satisfying quality. The main emotion behind this movement is joy, as nature thrived during Faure’s lifetime.
Movement two, Le Monde d’Aujourd’hui, is mournful. I begin the piece at a mezzo-piano to counter the exciting mezzo-forte of the first movement. While I keep a consistent tempo throughout all three movements, the rhythm of Le Monde d’Aujourd’hui is slower than that of its counterparts, especially at the beginning. I intend this piece to sound like an elegy to the dying planet. I chose a meter of ¾ for this piece, because its rocking, waltz-like quality creates a solemn atmosphere. The rainstorm motif appears in measures 16,17 and 19 of Le Monde d’Aujourd’hui. While the rhythm of the rain (eighth note runs) is the same as in the previous movement, I wanted to indicate a harsher storm by doubling the eighth note line in the second violin part. I also specified both violins to play pizzicato, a timbre that is noticeable against the bowed cello melody. Unlike in movement one, the “rain” is at the same indicated dynamic level as the melody. Le Monde d’Aujourd’hui is through-composed, a musical form that is less satisfying for the listener than the repetition I included in the first movement. While these musical choices begin to introduce the devastating effects of climate change, I save my most extreme and bizarre writing for the post-apocalyptic third movement.
Le Monde du Futur is intended to be pure chaos. In a thousand years, I imagine climate change will wipe out the human race, turning Planet Earth into an uninhabitable wasteland ravaged by extreme weather phenomena. Le Monde du Futur lacks a clear tonal center and cadences in strange and unpredictable keys in order to unsettle the listener. This piece features a wide dynamic range and crescendos from pianissimo to fortissimo through only five bars (mm. 11-15) Additionally, a sforzando is indicated in the penultimate measure. I deliberately saved this exciting dynamic marking for the most chaotic movement of La Crise. The rhythm of La Crise is unpredictable, ranging from sustained whole notes to sixteenth-note runs shared by the violins in measures 16,17 and 30. I intend the runs in measures 16 and 17 to represent post-apocalyptic rain: they are more intense than the rain in previous movements, with a quicker rhythm and unexpected major tonality. I also use glissandi, trills and pizzicato to represent the chaos of a world that has succumbed to climate change.
My predictions for the future may be cynical, but without direct and immediate human action, they will likely be realized. International governments and large corporations must recognize climate change for what it is: a crisis with the power to eliminate all life on Earth. To save the planet, a paradigm shift is required. While I do not have the influence to catalyze such a change, I can advocate for climate justice, amplify the voices of activists like Greta Thunberg, and write compositions like La Crise to raise awareness for climate change.