Music Responding to Environmental Crises

PRiSM Writer in Residence Update 2021

18 August 2021

In March 2021 we welcomed 4 new PRiSM Associates, PRiSM Writers in Residence Abi Bliss and Leo Mercer, and PRiSM Scientists in Residence Rose Pritchard and Patrick Sanan. We introduced them and their projects here 2021 PRiSM Writers and Scientists in Residence. We wanted to check back in with them and see how their projects were developing. Today’s update is from PRiSM Scientist in Residence, Rose Pritchard.

Music Responding to Environmental Crises

by Rose Pritchard

A woman outside holding a warm drink in a mug

PRiSM 2021 Scientist in residence Rose Pritchard

My project focuses on the roles of music in responding to environmental crises, particularly climate change. The IPCC report released last week reiterated the scale and urgency of the climate challenge we are facing. We should be thinking about all the possible strategies available to us which could help minimise climate harms. But creative arts like music are often neglected in climate conversations. This project is one small part of the efforts to address that omission.

Much of the first half of my residency has been spent exploring research literature and projects relevant to music and climate change. It’s been a fascinating voyage of discovery, covering work on musics of protest and resistance; music as an educational tool and a way of communicating lived experience of environmental change; music as something which can build social connections and increase resilience; and music as a key part of identity formation and sense of belonging in a rapidly changing world.

It’s also been a treat talking to composers and performers about the ways they engage with environmental challenges in their own work. I’ve been fascinated by how different people make sense of environmental challenges through music, and by how music can become a way of reaching audiences who might otherwise spend little time thinking about environmental issues.

We’re now planning for two events in the autumn, including a discussion event on music and climate as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, and a workshop mapping out directions for future research on music and environmental crisis. We’re also hoping to carry out some research exploring themes of music and transformative change – looking more hopefully towards the future and thinking through how music can help bring about the social and political transformations needed to meet the climate challenge.


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