The rise of Eco-Folk/Pop? Singing to save the biosphere? – or lamenting its ecocide? Or both?

“Welcome to the biggest crime that’s ever been committed” (Kate Tempest; Tunnel Vision)

“A Great three-minute protest song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook: immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, wrapped in music, easy to understand by ordinary people.” Buffy Sainte-Marie  (cited By Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares 2017, see below for details).

“Without music the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.”  (see a few paragraphs down).

‘How could the music we love ignore the greatest crisis we face?’ (Mark Pedelty 2012).


“Through history, protest songs have shown to be a powerful tool to inspire movement for social change, uniting people in support of a common cause. From civil rights and women’s suffrage to anti-apartheid and environmentalism, protest songs have very much contributed to shape the course of history. As the Native Cree Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie stated in an interview for the American Indian magazine:

A great three-minute protest song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook: immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, wrapped in music, easy to understand by ordinary people.”

This is being edited and update on an ongoing basis. Most recent update 26/05/2018.

Thanks to Professor Kate Rigby; Professor Amanda Bayley; and Peter Reason for helpful comments thus far.


I have been writing songs and trying to develop my playing and singing skills for some time. Songs published here

And I am also lucky enough to be a fringe member of the wonderful Fantasy Orchestra (Bristol).

In relation to music and the environmental humanities,  I have been pondering the following basic question(s)…folk and popular music, when they deal with ‘serious matters’ – which they do frequently – but not always of course – deal with the ‘conditions of the common people’, and everyday life’s in  love; war;  migration; enforced displacement (land claim, enclosure, and clearance); (unfair) economy / labour conditions; land rights and lack of; place; and so on (that list is to be expanded upon in future work and posts).

Without too much thought or ‘study’ – here is a list of folk thematics. I would like to do this more systematically at some point

  • Love – (of course)
  • Love never found
  • Love lost
  • Love rivalries
  • Lovers dead
  • Lovers lost to war and conscription and the sea (British Empire)
  • Lovers adultery
  • Ghostly lovers – shape shifters  (Three Black Feathers)
  • Sex (of course)
  • Enforced displacement; land clearances; slum clearances
  • Deportation
  • Poaching and other crimes from the agrarian era – leading to deportation – or worse
  • Revenge, sibling rivalry, and betrayal over land and wealth (as well as love)
  • Oppressive landlords and employers
  • Poverty / money (How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?)
  • War
  • War gone badly (Bonny Bunch of Roses)
  • Industrialisation (loss of craft labour (Peg and Awl)
  • De-industrialisation (loss of livelihood and identity at individual and community levels)
  • Place  – love of – loss of – leaving of – trapped in
  • Nature
  • Landscape (love of / longing for)

I will try to put more song examples against each of these in due course
Whole genres of music, such as ‘the blues’, have emerged in response to social conditions – social injustice.

Woody Guthrie’s songs were more about social (in)justice than eco-justice per se. But some elements of social injustice through the land and environment destruction (the dust bowl in the  USA), and the addressing thereof, are evident in “This Land is Your Land”, “Dust Bowl Blues”, and “Do Re Mi”. (Here is Ry Cooder doing this song live in 1977 and telling the back story – it is wonderful – and/but it is in effect about environmental refugees in early 20th century America).

Popular music was a key element to the civil rights movement in America in the 1960s and 1970s.

‘Music played a major role the civil rights movement. Without music the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.’

This quote comes from a great BBC Radio 4 programme; Soul Music (Series). Songs of the Civil Rights Movement. (Broadcast 4 4 2018). This programme is online here at time of writing (30 04 2018). It might not remain so.

The programme told how the music of the 1960s movement inherited and extended the tradition of ‘spirituals’, songs that were key resources in surviving, resisting, and escaping from the era of slavery in the US.

Songs such as ‘Strange Fruit’ (Abel Meeropol 1939), Billie Holiday version here, were extraordinarily powerful, bleak and angry confrontations against gross racial violence, and had massive political and cultural impact. (See Strange Fruit: The Biography of a Song by David Margolick 2001).

The civil rights movement also, in turn, extended to the peace movement – particularly in relation, in the US, to the Vietnam war. Some of Bob Dylan’s early songs were very much protest songs. But he then rejected that mantle. The subsequent electric development of the his music, alongside the Beatles, and others,  was bound up with huge shifts in gender politics, the ongoing peace movement, and the liberation of culture in the 1960s.

So, popular/folk  music has  (always), to some extent, been political, and on occasions, been a very significant catalyst for change.

As set out elsewhere, (on the blog this started on),   a new(ish),in historical terms,  and key condition of the common people, of all human and non-human life on the planet in fact, is the ecological crisis that has engulfed us since – more or less – the industrial  revolution – but which became  painfully obvious (to those paying attention) from the mid 20th century onwards. The genesis of the crisis goes way back further than that in some ways (maybe to the birth of agrarian society). But the crisis has come into sharp focus in scientific and  political terms since, say, the 1960s, e.g. notably, Rachel Carson’s  Silent Spring (1964) (see here for free PDF).

But it has only come into focus in a limited sense, as mainstream Western culture, politics and economy have not woken up to, or really responded to, the ecological crisis in any meaningful way. Tragically and alarmingly, the implications and challenges of the crisis are still yet to really penetrate mainstream politics, culture and economy to the extent needed to change the direction of travel of modern globalised capitalism, consumer society, liberal notions of the ‘individual’   and other competing ideological blocks. It is more or less ‘business as usual’ in the neo-liberal globalised capitalism world of ‘modernity’.

So…. the basis question(s) here asked  are…..

to what extent is folk and popular music responding to the ecological crisis?  There are some obvious examples (see below).

And what difference can this make?

I have already helped, in very, very,  small ways, explore and develop this idea in relation to being a founding adviser to Kelston Records (Bath UK) – see here for more on that.
I am the programmer for Priston Festival – now in its eleventh year. While this is a local music and arts festival with no specific agenda apart from high quality music in a lovely local setting, some notable examples of what could be called ‘eco-folk’ have been performed. We are drawn to such music.


I do not recommend  (or like) all these songs (but many I do love), they are here as historic examples of eco-folk/pop.

I am sure there are many other songs that could be  here. This is very much a partial, personal list, but is an effort to explore this idea/question  and think it through.

This song played on The Cerys Matthews BBC Six Music show is of interest in this regard as it is a fusion of indigenous eco-rights and contemporary music. This show certainly has some affinity with the kinds of things being discussed here – and plays great music.


Historical “early adopters”
Going back to earlier days, I suppose this is one of the classic proto eco-folk songs, with more or less direct links to Carson’s Silent Spring (The reference to DDT)


Here are the lyrics
Big Yellow Taxi; Joni Mitchell (1970)

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see ’em
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot

Hey farmer farmer
Put away that D.D.T. now
Give me spots on my apples
But leave me the birds and the bees
Please
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got

They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot

They paved paradise
And put up a parking

They paved paradise
Put up a parking lot


Also by Joni Mitchell, 1970 , Woodstock, the classic ‘hippie’-pacifist  song which hints of deep time ‘Billion year old carbon’ and a desire to get back to pre-modern/pre-industrial time –  out of the smog and the Devil’s bargain – back to the garden.

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who l am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

I put the famous Matthew’s Southern Comfort cover here


From the same year, by yet another stellar Canadian singer-songwriter 

Lyrics

After The Gold Rush; Neil Young; 1970

Well, I dreamed I saw the knights
In armor coming
Saying something about a queen
There were peasants singing and
Drummers drumming
And the archer split the tree
There was a fanfare blowing
To the sun
That was floating on the breeze
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the nineteen seventies
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the nineteen seventies

I was lying in a burned out basement
With the full moon in my eyes
I was hoping for replacement
When the sun burst thru the sky
There was a band playing in my head
And I felt like getting high
I was thinking about what a friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie
Thinking about what a friend had said
I was hoping it was a lie

Well, I dreamed I saw the silver
Space ships flying
In the yellow haze of the sun
There were children crying
And colors flying
All around the chosen ones
All in a dream, all in a dream
The loading had begun
Flying Mother Nature’s
Silver seed to a new home in the sun
Flying Mother Nature’s
Silver seed to a new home


And the same year again


Lyrics; Ape Man; The Kinks (Ray Davis), 1970

I think I’m sophisticated
‘Cause I’m living my life like a good homosapien
But all around me, everybody’s multiplying
And they’re walking round like flies man

So I’m no better than the animals sitting in their cages
In the zoo man
Because compared to the flowers and the birds and the trees
I am an Apeman

I think I’m so educated and I’m so civilized
‘Cause I’m a strict vegetarian
But with the over-population and inflation and starvation
And the crazy politicians

I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore
And make like an Apeman

I’m an Apeman, I’m an Ape Apeman
No, I’m an Apeman
Well, I’m a King Kong man, I’m a Voo-Doo man
No, I’m an Apeman

‘Cause compared to the sun that sits in the sky
Compared to the clouds as they roll by
Compared to the bugs and the spiders and flies
I am an Apeman

I’m an Apeman, I’m an Ape Apeman
No, I’m an Apeman
Well, I’m a King Kong man, I’m a Voo-Doo man
No, I’m an Apeman

I don’t feel safe in this world no more
I don’t want to die in a nuclear war
I want to sail away to a distant shore
And make like an Apeman

Songwriters: Ray Davies
Apeman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc


Here is another classic early venture from a year later (1971)


Lyrics
Don’t Go Near The Water; Beach Boys; 1971

[Chorus]
Don’t go near the water
Don’t you think it’s sad
What’s happened to the water
Our water’s going bad
[Verse 1]
Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land
[Chorus]
Don’t go near the water
Ain’t it sad
What’s happened to the water
It’s going bad
[Bridge]
Don’t go near the water
Don’t go near the water

[Verse 2]
Toothpaste and soap will make our oceans a bubble bath
So let’s avoid an ecological aftermath
Beginning with me
Beginning with you

[Chorus]
Don’t go near the water
To do it any wrong
To be cool with the water
Is the message of this song

[Outro]
Let’s all help the water
Right away
Do what we can and ought to
Let’s start today

This anticipates current concerns about domestic products entering the water environment through everyday household use and disposal through waste water systems.


And yet another classic effort –  where soul went fully ecological – also 1971
Marvin Gaye – Mercy Mercy (The ecology). Tamla Records
Woah, ah mercy mercy me
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no
Where did all the blue skies go?
Poison is the wind that blows
From the north and south and east

Woah mercy, mercy me, yeah yeah
Ah things ain’t what they used to be
Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas
Fish full of mercury
Oh Jesus yeah mercy, mercy me ah
Ah things ain’t what they used to be, oh no

Radiation under ground and in the sky
Animals and birds who live nearby are dying
Hey mercy, mercy me oh
Ah things ain’t what they used to be
What about this overcrowded land
How much more abuse from man can she stand?

Here is a video of this great song form the album What’s Going On?

It is interesting that there seems to have been a flurry of great eco-folk/pop songs around 1970/71. Now approaching half a century ago!!


John Denver, who was one of the biggest music stars in the 1970s wrote a series of hits referring to his beloved home landscape of the Rockies Mountains. By 1975 he was linked up with the famous French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

From the album Windsong “Calypso” was written by John Denver in 1975 as a tribute to Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his research ship, the Calypso.

1n 1976 Denver founded the charitable Windstar Foundation in 1976, to promote sustainable living.


In 1978 Moondog released this challenge to human exceptionalism.

Enough about Human Rights; Moon Dog; 1978
Enough about Human Rights
Enough about Human Rights
What about Wal Rights?
What about Snail Rights?
What about Seal Rights?
What about Eel Rights?
What about Coon Rights?
What about Loon Rights?
What about Wolf Rights?
What about, what about, what about, What about Moose Rights?
What about Goose Rights?
What about Lark Rights?
What about Shark Rights?
What about Fox Rights?
What about Ox Rights?
What about Mole Right?
What about, what about, what about, What about Goat Rights?
What about Stoat Rights?
What about Pike Rigths?
What about Shrike Rights?
What about Hare Rights?
What about Bear Rights?
What about Ape Rights?
Enough about Human Rights!
What about Hog Rights?
What about Frog Rights?
What about Kite Rights?
What about Mite Rights?
What about Bee Rights?
What about Flea Rights?
What about Ant Rights?
What about, what about, what about, What about Bat Rights?
What about Gnat Rights?
What about Mouse Rights?
What about Louse Right?
What about Cat Rights?
What about Rat Rights?
What about Snake Rights?
What about, what about, what about, What about Bug Rights?
What about Slug Rights?
What about Bass Rights?
What about Ass Rights?
What about Worm Rights?
What about Germ Rights?
What about Plant Rights?


Talking Heads –  an American band  – wrote a series of very interesting songs  between 1975 and 1991 on eight albums (see Wikipedia for more info).

Many raised political issues, even philosophical issues, and addressed  questions of materiality and materialism.  Some of these – particularly later ones – ‘played’ with eco-political themes. One obvious one is ‘Nothing But Flowers’ – the video of which has flashed up eco-political challenges  – not in the lyrics – and some of the lyrics. This is one of a few post-apocalypse songs they produced.

It contains the lines – which I have thought of often –
“And as things fell apartNobody paid much attention”

The uber-famous Once in A Life Time seems to be a paranoid mash-up of alienation, consumption and geological (deep time) undertows.

Other Talking Heads songs could feature here e.g. “Road to Nowhere” – but I put here The Listening Wind which speaks of  an imagined North American Indian act of violent protest against the colonisation of America


Oh Mother Earth; Neil Young, 1990, continued the sentiments already expresses in earlier songs such as After The Gold Rush

Oh, Mother Earth,
With your fields of green
Once more laid down
by the hungry hand
How long can you
give and not receive
And feed this world
ruled by greed
And feed this world
ruled by greed.Oh, ball of fire
In the summer sky
Your healing light,
your parade of days
Are they betrayed
by the men of power
Who hold this world
in their changing hands
They hold the world
in their changing hands.Oh, freedom land
Can you let this go
Down to the streets
where the numbers grow
Respect Mother Earth
and her healing ways
Or trade away
our children’s days
Or trade away
our children’s days.Respect Mother Earth
and her healing ways
Or trade away
our children’s days. 
in 2015 Neil Young  released ‘Monsanto Years’, his 35th studio album,  A ‘concept album criticising the agribusiness Monsanto.’ Source and more info Wikipedia.
In 2016 Young then released ‘Earth’ with Promise of the Real; an enhanced, live anthology of his environmentally focused songs including, After The Gold Rush, Oh Mother Earth, Monsanto Years. “Young described the album as “a collection of 13 songs from throughout my life, songs I have written about living here on our planet together.” The album’s mix also includes nature and animal sounds, including turkeys, insects, crows, and thunder.” Source and more info Wikipedia.

Earth Song; Michael Jackson, 1995

The undoubted musical genius that was Michael Jackson was one of the biggest world stars in the 1980s and 1990s. Earth Song was a full-on cry of protest and pain about ecological crisis and related social injustice.  The song was accompanied by a highly dramatic high production  value video. This attracted attention for being too overblown and pompous. A televised live performance of the song was disrupted by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp – who happens to be the next artist on this list.
Lyrics of Earth Song

What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things that you said
We were to gain
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said were yours and mine

Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying Earth, these weeping shores

Aah, ooh

What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son

What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine

Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying earth, these weeping shores

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

Hey, what about yesterday
(What about us)
What about the seas
(What about us)
The heavens are falling down
(What about us)
I can’t even breathe
(What about us)
What about apathy
(What about us)
Drowning in the seas
(What about us)
What about the promised land
Preachin’ what I believe
(What about us)
What about the holy land
(What about it)
What about the greed
(What about us)
Where did we go wrong
Someone tell me why
(What about us)
What about baby boy
(What about him)
What about the days
(What about us)
What about all their joy
Do we give a damn
Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

Do we give a damn

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh
The (in)famous video starts with images of the destruction of rain forest and then turns to Jackson wandering in a blasted wasteland of ex-forest.

Australia; Green Songs an Indigenous folk/pop  ( Thanks to Professor Kate Rigby for info and CD loans).

Environmental politics and academic study have been prominent in Australia, partly because the process of colonization is such a recent and raw history and the ‘ecocidal’ consequences for people and the environment so glaring.

Green Songs was a double CD released in 2001, created in conjunction with the Green Party Australia and aimed to be released at the Global Green conference on 2001 in Canberra. Also connected to the 1998 Federal Elections where in many campaign trips and meetings the amount of eco-protest songs emerging inspired the CD. The booklet says, ‘it became obvious how many songs there were about the issues that are important to us Greens – issues of social justice, ecological sustainability, grassroots democracy, and peace, nonviolence and disarmament.’

The CD contains 38 tracks by differing artists.

IMG_1195

There are a number of Australian indigenous music acts on this CD. These following in the steps of other bands such as Yothu Yindi.  This was a mixed band of “Aboriginal and balanda (non-Aboriginal) members, formed in 1986”. A famous and ground-breaking song was Treaty 1991. This was sung in the Australian Language, and ‘broke through’ in Australian and World music charts.

Lyrics of Treaty

Well I heard it on the radio
And I saw it on the television
Back in 1988
All those talking politicians
Words are easy, words are cheap
Much cheaper than our priceless land
But promises can disappear
Just like writing in the sand

Treaty Yeh Treaty Now
Treaty Yeh Treaty Now

Nhima Djatpangarri nhima walangwalang –
Nhe Djatpayatpa nhima gaya nhe-
Matjini…. Yakarray – nhe Djat’pa nhe walang – Gumurrtijararrk Gutjuk –

This land was never given up
This land was never bought and sold
The planting of the Union Jack
Never changed our law at all

Now two rivers run their course
Separated for so long
I’m dreaming of a brighter day
When the waters will be one

Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Treaty Now
Treaty Yeh Treaty Now Treaty Yeh Traty Now

Nhima djatpa nhe walang
gumurrtjararrk yawirriny Nhe gaya nhe matjini
Gaya nhe matjini Gaya gaya nhe gaya nhe
Matjini walangwalang Nhema djatpa nhe walang – Nhe gumurrtjarrk nhe ya-

Promises – Disappear – Priceless land – Destiny –
Well I heard it on the Radio – And I saw it on the Television
But promises can be broken Just like writing in the sand

Treaty Yeh
Treaty Now ….


Trees by Pulp  – from the album We Love  Life (2001) is a kind of interesting vignette of alienated suburban life and love and ecology. Starting with the idle shooting of a magpie – it draws on the affective atmospheres of woodlands – the smell of leaf mould and ‘sweet decay’.

Other tracks, Road Kill also mash up decaying love and degraded urban nature, while The Birds in Your Garden,  is a more optimistic turn to nature to subvert restrictive social morays. The opening songs, Weeds, and Weeds II (The Origin of the Species) cross reference urban wasteland, weed ecologies, and refugee experiences. The second song is very much about hybridity,  and subversion, over time, by feral ecologies.

It has many similarities with the whole ‘edgelands’ idea – see the book of that name by  Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts here


Building on previous mega pop events focusing on raising awareness of, and money for, disasters such as Live Aid (1985), Live Earth was staged in 2007. It “was a one off event developed to combat climate change. The first series of benefit concerts were held on July 7, 2007. The concerts brought together more than 150 musical acts in eleven locations around the world which were broadcast to a mass global audience through televisions, radio, and streamed via the Internet”. (Source and more details here). The critical and popular reaction to it was decidedly mixed.


In 2009 Richard L. Wallace published a “List of Songs Related to Climate Change and Human Impact on the Environment”  as part of his Ursinus College Environmental Studies Program. This list is still on-line as a PDF here. It contains “185 different artists,277 different songs [inc some of the the ones above],  8 “entire albums” or “entire oeuvre” entries. And a list of links to other resources.


More recently there has been Björk’s Biophilia album (2011) which was a large transmedia creation with apps, lives shows and related films. See here for info and links. The name and content of the project obviously drawing from the biophilia hypothesis  which, in turn rests upon the (1984) book Biophilia by E. O. Wilson the devisor of the biodiversity concept. Bjork also has had exchanges with Tim Morton writer of The Ecological Thought (2012) and other works of ecological philosophy.
Here is Moon from the album Biophilia

Lyrics (as found on the web)
Moon

[Verse 1]
As the lukewarm
Hands of the gods
Came down and gently
Picked my adrenalin pearls
They placed them in their mouths
And rinsed all the fear out
Nourished them with their saliva

[Verse 2]
Rested
As if the healthiest past time
Is being in life-threatening circumstances
And once again be reborn

[Interlude]
All birthed and happy (all birthed and happy)
All birthed and happy (all birthed and happy)
All birthed and happy (all birthed and happy)

[Verse 3]
Best way to start-a-new
Is to fail miserably
Fail at loving and fail at giving
Fail at creating a flow
Then realign the whole
And kick into the start hole
And kick into the start hole
And kick into the start hole

From Wikipedia – about the song, Björk explained: “With each new moon we complete a cycle and are offered renewal —to take risks, to connect with other people, to love, to give. The symbolism of the moon as the realm of imagination, melancholy, and regeneration is expressed in the song.”


I am aware of a number of artists and acts – I am sure there are many, many more – who are bringing contemporary and historical, ecological and eco-social issues into their work. In some cases updating more traditional songs with new inflections. An example is Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith – who, on their new CD,  Night Hours address the issue of overgrazing due to farm subsidy in the UK.  In the song The Grazier Tribe, as they put it:

“Originally written about the struggles of the Irish being dominated by English lords taking their land to fatten cattle for the folks at home. Sid rewrote the song to reflect on the current overgrazing issues where in parts of the country the industry is held up by (at the time of writing) EU subsidies. This preserves a way of life for people that have grazed the hills for generations but at what cost for biodiversity and stable food growing systems? George Monbiot writes perhaps harshly but with great logic about the issue in his article ‘Sheepwrecked’ here.”  See the lyrics here

Here is a live video recording on the song


This Is The Kit  have a number of songs where ecological anxieties are very delicately woven into dream-like creations, particularly on the CDS Bashed Out and Moonshine Freeze

Silver John

Lyrics

Settle down, Silver John
We know nothing went wrong
And as ever it was us who had the wrong goggles on

New apocalypse on us, yes
Best get used to dark, used to wet
Hear them panicking, shouting out
“We’re not ready yet”

Will you wait for us, wait for me?
We’ve been praying our best for thee
We’ve been holding our breath eternally

Hands, knees, feet

Spores all Settling

Lyrics

Was cold in there, with darkness creeping in
Dim lit, could see the spores all settling
Breathe them in
Breathe them in
Breathe

So open out and let the clean air in
We’ll wash away, let’s get some weather in
Soak us to the skin
Soak us to the skin
Soak us through

And all those creatures, big bodied, small brains
All scuttled through in constant state of strain
Running from the rain
Running from the rain
Running from the rain
Running from the rain

Then biblical how much and how it came
Washed us away, they’ll not see us again
Seeing us again
Seeing us again
Seeing them

These quite oblique, spare, poetic  narratives seem to me to best express the mode of the time, and the need of the time. They are kind of laments the hope of which – if hope we must have – is their beauty and gentleness.


The focus on spores in this song echos the fungal and insect focused songs of Waitress for the Bees already mentioned above see Cicadanthem

Philip Henry and Hannah Martin – winners of the BBC Radio 2 Folk Best Duo award in 2014 (nominated again in 2016, and as Edgelarks in 2018) also bring delicately expressed political / environmental themes into their original songs. For example the Title Track off their 2016 CD Watershed

Lyrics

Cloud breaks, and the rain comes
Climbing up Coniston
Foot sore, and drunk on the cold clear air
Lingmoor was first for me, rising out of the valley
The mountain has eternity, but I am here for now, here for now

Watershed, here the rain must choose which side to fall
Which side to fall

Back down the hillside, we take the paths that fit our stride
And the river rolls our weary sighs away to the sea
Then city streets and traffic flow, crossroads passed we come and go
Down paths that only we may know
True for now, true for now

Chorus

In grand old rooms the men all talk
Cutting corners, fighting wars
Keeping it behind closed doors, swept under the rug
But up above there’s angry skies, and down below the tides will rise
And we will choose our own side, which side to fall
Which side to fall

Chorus x2


A notable example of recent eco-music/art is the BE project by Wolfgang Buttress. This is a set of sound and vision creations which include the sounds of bees from a hive.
An album of music related to the larger project is  ‘One’. See here

“‘One’ is the soundtrack to artist Wolfgang Buttress’ multiple award-winning UK Pavilion at the 2015 Milan EXPO – an installation that highlighted the plight of the honey bee, focusing on the importance of pollination. The music on the record is a constantly changing and evolving symphony – the sound of a dialogue between bee and human.”Here is ‘Blue Lullaby’
Here is ‘Be One’

This is Lyre Bird by Air Cushion Finish  2016

I am trying to find out if there are actual Lyre Bird calls in here. Yes or no, it seems very in sympathy with the Lyre Bird’s amazing vocal range and dexterity.

A special mention needs to go to David Rothenberg, a New York based jazz musician and scholar who has performed music with a range of animals; written about the nature of  animal music (birds, whales and insects);  and the evolutionary implications of beauty. He is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Music at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has released many CDs, and his work features in numerous TV programmes, press articles and films. All this is listed in detail on his website here. He recently gave  public lectures on his work at Bath Spa University Environmental Humanities Research Centre. These films can be seen here . As Rothenberg’s experiments in ecological music began in 1992 he can be seen as a remarkable pioneer in this area.


These new songs (2016) are very full-on laments for current modern human-nature relations by the artist Anohni, who is the lead singer of the group Antony & the Johnsons. It comes from her debut album Hopeless. On this album a number of global issues are addressed, such as global conflict  but the environmental crisis is very much to the fore.

Why did you separate me from the earth?


Lyrics
Chorus 1]
Why did you separate me from the earth?
Oh my God
Why did you separate me from the earth?
My father
[Verse 1]
You drew lines miles high in steel or nuclear
The forests of Borneo, and white water in your mouth
I don’t want your future, and I’ll never return
I’ll be born into the past, I’m never, never coming home
[Chorus 2]
Why did you separate me, me from the earth?
What did you stand to gain?
Why did you separate me from the earth?
[Verse 2]
The rotten bodies threaded gold, the pitch of hair and sticky meat
The sea life cut with plastic, a white cross gilded gold
A case of white doves laying in the boiling snow
A sharp knife of concrete, the blue line of tuna’s throat
[Verse 3]
I don’t want your future, I’m never, never coming home
I don’t want your future, I’ll be born before you’re born
[Chorus 3]
Why did you separate me, me from the earth?
What did you have to gain?
Why did you separate me from the earth?
What did you have to gain?
Why did you separate me from the earth, from the earth, from the earth, from the earth?
What did you have to gain?

4 Degrees


Lyrics
[Chorus 1]
It’s only 4 degrees, it’s only 4 degrees
It’s only 4 degrees, it’s only 4 degrees
It’s only 4 degrees, it’s only 4 degrees
It’s only 4 degrees, it’s only 4 degrees
[Verse 1]
I wanna see this world, I wanna see it boil
I wanna see this world, I wanna see it boil
It’s only 4 degrees, it’s only 4 degrees
It’s only 4 degrees, it’s only 4 degrees
[Verse 2]
I wanna hear the dogs crying for water
I wanna see the fish go belly-up in the sea
And all those lemurs and all those tiny creatures
I wanna see them burn, it’s only 4 degrees
[Verse 3]
And all those rhinos and all those big mammals
I wanna see them lying, crying in the fields
I want to see them, I want to see them burn
I want to see them, I want to see them burn
[Chorus 2]
I wanna see them burn, it’s only 4 degrees
I wanna see them burn, it’s only 4 degrees
I wanna see them burn, it’s only 4 degrees
[Post-Chorus 1]
I wanna burn them, I wanna burn them
I wanna burn them, I wanna burn them
[Verse 4]
I wanna burn the sky, I wanna burn the breeze
I wanna see the animals die in the trees
[Chorus 3]
Ooh, let’s go, let’s go, it’s only 4 degrees
Ooh, let’s go, let’s go, it’s only 4 degrees
Ooh, let’s go, let’s go, it’s only 4 degrees
Ooh, let’s go, let’s go, it’s only 4 degrees
[Post-Chorus 2]
I wanna burn them, I wanna burn them
I wanna burn them


Although not overtly ‘ecological’, the anger and despair in this speaks very much of the human dimensions of ecocide, as in the lines,

“Cause the modern world is a sight to see
It’s a stimulant, it’s pornography
It takes all my will not to turn it off”


Others tend to write more direct  protest songs – for example


Although clearly heartfelt, the gendered nature of the analogy drawn through the song might well draw ecofeminist orientated questions. (The lyrics are with the song on YouTube). I am grateful for Bath Spa University MA in Environmental Humanities student Bethany Rhodes for this example.

The South-West England located band Seize the Day   have long merged high energy folk music with eco-political activism and politics (the lead vocalist stood as a Green candidate in the UK general elections for his local constituency). Seen often on the smaller stages of Glastonbury Festival hey use wit and humour to challenge consumer society – for example

This video was released in 2007, so they have been active eco-folkists for some time. Some of the videos on their website are of activism – not music!


Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Anthrocene’ from the album Skeleton Tree (2016)  feels like quite a bleak lament.

They lyrics and some contexts and discussion are here


Kate Tempest – is an extraordinary and rightly widely celebrated UK artist doing part rapping part performances of songs which express anger, despair at the current situation in both terms of both social and ecological disaster, and calls for personal, community and political change.
Here are two amazing songs

Don’t Fall In – a  extraordinary ‘rap’ about climate change and the coming watery apocalypse

Here are the lyrics  (from Genius here)

Verse 1]
We came from the four corners, we are the raw waters
The course the four horsemen would drink from, the water that pours
We carry the river, the reservoir, the residue
Rising waves, she sprayed the inevitable
Churn across many voices in our vape
As we surge and gush, we were steam and a distant heat
We move rapid over landscape, gatherin’ speed
Desert, land, city, forest, and beach
Headin’ for the people that sleep, ready to bleed
Unleash the torrents, come clean
Carry many lessons that the water teach
But you better learn to swim or you’ll get caught beneath

[Hook]
Hard rain falling on all the halfhearted
Half formed, fast walking, half fury, half boredom
Hard talking, half dead from exhaustion
Half pushed but the puddles keep forming, don’t fall in

[Verse 2]
Some saw us in their tea leaves, some felt us in their knees
Most left it to the weathermen to tell them there was nothing to see
You can play dumb and ignore for so long
But we’ve been in the mountains gettin’ strong
We’ve seen you filling up the sky with your fumes
Sitting in your rooms like you’re all that ever lived
Heads down to the lives of the others in your towns
Running from the rains like you’ve never been kissed, look
Leave your possessions and fun so your friends
That you’ve gone to make peace with the things you’ve never done
Come dance in the deluge, spill like the flood
The weathervane swings, things will never change
Single the moneymen who close their eyes and pretend
That this rumble must be low planes, so strange

[Hook]
Hard rain falling on all the halfhearted
Half formed, fast walking, half fury, half boredom
Hard talking, half dead from exhaustion
Half pushed but the puddles keep forming, don’t fall in

[Verse 3]
And they will run to the highest hill, consult their old books
Ask the dead mystics for wisdom they don’t trust
The people will flock to the garages
Stockpile cannisters of gasoline, tinned fish, and bandages
Count the seconds between the thunder and the lightning
Scared of every other body runnin’ ’round frightened
“We can’t carry on like this,” you will mutter
Staring with disgust at the people weepin’ in the gutter
“Yeah, we made no trouble, we played by the rules
I worked double shift to get my kids from school!”
But you were so focused on your own little part
You went plowin’ on blind in the dark, no heart
Now we’re not the dreaded storm that will end things
We’re just your playful, gale force friend in these end times
Come to remind you you’re not an island
Life is much broader than borders
But who can afford to think over the walls of this fortress?
Of course, it’s important to provide roof and floorboards
For you and yours and be secure in your fortunes
But you’re more than the three or four you go to war for
You’re part of a people that need your support
And, who’s world is it if it belongs to these corporates?
The people are left on the doorstep, door shut
Nauseous and tortured by all that they’ve lost

[Hook]
Hard rain falling on all the halfhearted
Half formed, fast walking, half fury, half boredom
Hard talking, half dead from exhaustion
Half pushed but the puddles keep forming, don’t fall in

Here is the song

Tunnel Vision
Full lyrics below
Just three of the stand out lines
“Staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die”
“The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost, and pitiful”
“Welcome to the biggest crime that’s ever been committed”

[Verse 1]
Indigenous apocalypse, decimated forest, the Winter of our discontent’s upon us
Desolate apostles, left with Strongbow at the crossroads
We are nothing but an eating mouth, oesophagus, colossal
We won’t stop until we’ve beaten down the planet into pellets
Before the interstellar mission to inflict more terror
It’s killing me, it’s killing me, it’s filling me, I’m vomiting, it’s still in me
Everything is fine really, silly me
Poor kids shot dead, poor kids locked up
Poor kids saying, “This is the future that you left us?”
Stopped up lunch meat, processed, punch from an unclean fatcat
Tasty, tasty poison
Carcinogenic, diabetic, asthmatic, epileptic, post-traumatic, bipolar and disaffected
Atomised, thinking we’re engaged when we’re pacified
Staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die
[Hook]
What we gonna do to wake up?
We sleep so deep, it don’t matter how they shake us
If we can’t face it, we can’t escape it
But tonight the storm’s come
[Verse 2]
She’s screaming, she’s screaming
The drones turned her beautiful boy into a pile of bones
No body to bury, nobody is home
Running from war, the boat’s full, the boat’s sinking a mile off shore
No beds in the hospitals, our minds are against us
Imagine your daughter was gunned down defenceless on her way to school
There’d be uproar
But she’s collateral damage, it doesn’t matter
Now if our kids are fine, that’s enough for us
You can’t love into a vacuum, there’s got to be a limit
Welcome to the biggest crime that’s ever been committed
You think you and I are different kinds, you’re caught up in specifics
You and I apart are easier to limit
The illusion’s so complete it’s impossible to bring it into focus
Cinematic stock footage, you think people are locusts
Uniform men keep unleashing explosives

[Hook]
What we gonna do to wake up?
We sleep so deep, it don’t matter how they shake us
If we can’t face it, we can’t escape it
But tonight the storm’s come
[Verse 3]
Tunnel vision, tunnel vision
Work, drinks, heartbreak
You can’t face the past, the past’s a dark place
Can’t sleep, can’t wake, sitting in our boxes
Notching up our victories as other people’s losses
Another day, another chance to turn your face away from pain
Let’s get a takeaway
And meet me in the pub a little later, we’ll say the same things as ever
Life’s a waiting game
When we gonna see that life is happening?
And that every single body bleeding on its knees is an abomination
And every natural being is making communication
And we’re just sparks, tiny parts of a bigger constellation
We’re miniscule molecules that make up one body
You see the tragedy and pain of a person that you’ve never met
Is present in your nightmares, in your pull towards despair
And the sickness of the culture, and the sickness in our hearts
Is a sickness that’s inflicted by this distance that we share
Now, it was our bombs that started this war
And now it rages far away
So we dismiss all its victims as strangers
But they’re parents and children made dogs by the danger
Existence is futile, so we don’t engage
But it was our boats that sailed, killed, stole, and made frail
It was our boots that stamped
It was our courts that jailed
And it was our fuckin’ banks that got bailed
It was us who turned bleakly away
Looked back down at our nails and our wedding plans
In the face of a full-force gale, we said
“Well, it’s not up to us to make this place a better land
It’s not up to us to make this place a better land.”
Justice, justice, recompense, humility
Trust is, trust is something we will never see
Till love is unconditional
The myth of the individual has left us disconnected, lost, and pitiful
I’m out in the rain
It’s a cold night in London
And I’m screaming at my loved ones to wake up and love more
I’m pleading with my loved ones to wake up and love more

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e91O8sLzZ4I


Truth BeTold by Shama Rahman is new album which stems from a collective residency in the Antarctic by the artist who, as well as creating music, has a PhD in neuroscience and music. The new album combines field records of ice and water with a range of electronic and real instruments



Album on Bandcamp here including some free tracks and lyrics


Weaving musical spaces of indigenous resistance for environmental justice

I post the opeing paragraphs below. See full post on Entitle Blog here The post contains four YouTube videos

By Álvaro Fernández-Llamazares*

The author proposes a journey to explore environmental justice movements through music amongst indigenous peoples from all over the world. Environmental protest songs enact different ways of telling that can connect ecological, political, spiritual and place-based meanings of environmental issues in  unanticipated ways.

Through history, protest songs have shown to be a powerful tool to inspire movement for social change, uniting people in support of a common cause. From civil rights and women’s suffrage to anti-apartheid and environmentalism, protest songs have very much contributed to shape the course of history. As the Native Cree Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie stated in an interview for the American Indian magazine:

A great three-minute protest song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook: immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, wrapped in music, easy to understand by ordinary people.


This new song This Forest (2018) by the Rheingans Sisters seems wonderful to me. Lyrics to come when they are published

 


Songs, Place and Landscape. #Psychogeography Songs

To be added  – new songs about place

One of the most striking Psychogeography songs I know is White Chalk by P J Harvey. Here she is playing it live.


Resources
A related, and very interesting musical endeavour is the recent collaboration between the environmental journalist George Monbiot and musician Ewan McLennan Breaking the Spell of Loneliness (CD) This seems to be  more about social alienation but the title echoes, knowingly or otherwise, the great  E.O. Wilson’s idea of the era of loneliness that will come with ongoing species extinction. See here for an article on this.

John Berger‘s 2015 essay  Some Notes on Song: The rhythms of listening is useful background reading. Online free in full here

Here are few academic books also of interest.

Allen, Aaron S., & Kevin Dawe, eds. Current Directions in Ecomusicology: Music, Culture, Nature. Routledge. New York, 2016.

Ingram, David. Jukebox in the Garden. Ecocriticism and American Popular Music Since 1960. Rodopi. Amsterdam, 2010.

Kagan, Sacha, and Volker Kirchberg. “Music and Sustainability: Organizational Cultures towards Creative Resilience E a Review.” Journal of Cleaner Production135 (2016): 1487–1502.

Krause, Bernie. Voices of the Wild: Animal Songs, Human Din, and the Call to Save Natural Soundscapes. Yale University Press. London, 2015.

Pedelty, Mark. Ecomusicology: Rock, Folk, and the Environment. Temple University Press. Philadelphia, 2012.

Schippers, Huib, and Catherine Grant, eds. Sustainable Futures for Music Cultures. A Ecological Perspective. Oxford University  Press. New York, 2016.

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