What Do We Want the Future to Sound Like?

The ClimateMusic Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit collaboration between world-renowned scientists, world-class musicians and artists, and technology leaders, creates musical and visual experiences guided by scientific data on climate change. Our mission is to communicate a sense of urgency about climate change by combining climate science with the emotional power of music to drive meaningful action.

The Global Climate Action Summit

When we first learned of the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), we were inspired to participate. GCAS, co-chaired by California governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, Patricia Espinosa, Anand Mahindra, and Xie Zhenhua, took place in San Francisco in September 2018 and, as stated by the organizers, “brought together leaders and people from around the world to ‘Take Ambition to the Next Level.’” Organizers also noted that the event “was a moment to celebrate the achievements of states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens with respect to climate action.” GCAS sought to incorporate diverse voices and offered the chance for organizations to present affiliated events, of which there were more than 350, including some thought-provoking protests.

The question for us was how to best highlight the work of The ClimateMusic Project and inspire other musicians and artists to get involved. After serious discussions with our team, our partners, and our Leadership Council, we settled on a less conventional approach to engaging with Summit participants. Instead of a traditional theater performance and panel that might reach an audience of 100 to 300, we planned a new concept, Play for the Planet, designed to reach a broader audience and to inspire public engagement on climate change. Our interactive climate action took place in the afternoon of September 12 on the steps of the centrally-located San Francisco Public Library where Summit delegates and the general public would be passing by. We were also close to the weekly Farmers Market and Book Fair.

Play for the Planet featured more than twenty performers challenged to answer the question “What do you think the future will sound like, or what do you want it to sound like?” Our performers – more than 20 of them – included: Andrew Revkin, Strategic Adviser for Environmental and Science Journalism at National Geographic Society; Rafael Jesús González, Berkeley Poet Laureate; COPUS, a San Francisco-based jazz and spoken word group; The Creative Liberation Network, an Oakland-based art, music, and educational organization; Nick Platoff, Associate Principal Trombonist for the San Francisco Symphony; and Guinevere Q, a slam rock and spoken word artist. In addition, artist and philosopher Carter Brooks provided an ice installation that slowly melted throughout the day – a concrete representation of humanity’s current situation on Earth. We were able to give folks a taste of our original composition, Climate, as composer Erik Ian Walker performed a short excerpt of this beautiful and haunting piece.

Audience members were also invited to interact with world-renowned scientists including Dr. William Collins, Head of the Climate Readiness Institute at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) and senior advisor to The ClimateMusic Project, and Alison Marklein, a post-doc researcher at LBNL. A few of our solutions partners – Cool Effect, RE-volv, SF Environment, and PLACE – were available to discuss ways that the public can act on climate. After all, our primary goal is to motivate action.

Play for the Planet was a departure from The ClimateMusic Project’s standard performances, which feature original music compositions accompanied by visual animations that are faithfully driven by widely-accepted scientific data. Because we wanted to demonstrate how performers can influence and drive action, we created an environment that offered musicians and artists a chance to share their nonscientific artistic expressions of climate change. Those expressions were quite powerful, both for audiences and performers, some of whom newly appreciated their ability to have an impact on a critical issue. “For the Global Climate Action Summit, we wanted to engage the broader public and the artistic community in a way that integrated them with the Summit and emphasized their ability to make a difference on climate change. Action at all levels is critical and, just like the official Summit delegates, the public and the artistic community has a vital role to play,” said Stephan Crawford, Founder and Executive Producer.

Our Core Work

Since November 2015, we have staged live performances of our original compositions at iconic venues in the San Francisco Bay area and beyond. Our first composition, Climate, by Erik Ian Walker, tells the story of climate change over the period 1800-2250 AD. It highlights humanity’s effect on the planet as well as our projected impact both with and without global reduction of carbon emissions. Our second piece, Icarus in Flight, by Richard Festinger, premiered to a sold-out audience in June 2018 and uses data related to the human drivers of climate change over a 200-year period.

Our performances include synched animations and post-concert public forums. During live events, we actively engage audiences in discussion with our scientists and composers, bringing the issue to life in a way that is relatable, captivating, and effective.

We welcome you to join us on our journey. We are working towards collaborating with musicians globally in order to create ClimateMusic that resonates with a broad fanbase and diverse communities. We are also utilizing state-of-the-art technology to make ClimateMusic available in schools, museums, and other public spaces. Check us out at climatemusic.org, @climatemusic, Facebook, and Instagram.


Laurie Goldman is a veteran public policy professional who has held positions in government, industry, and academia. She most recently served as Deputy Director of UC Berkeley’s Global Engagement Office, overseeing the development of partnerships with international universities and advising the campus on best practices for global engagement in a higher education context. As head of Global Trade Policy for Levi Strauss & Co., Laurie advised on global trade and development issues. She has always been passionate about working with institutions committed to a greater good and has sought out opportunities to engage with global concerns. She holds a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Tufts University.

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