I used to think that I had to make a choice. Either or. I struggled with whether I should pursue being a musician or respond more directly to social and environmental justice issues by engaging in community service, volunteering for house building organizations, cleaning up polluted rivers, or saving a species from extinction. The Earth is crying out, and what I hear in this critical time is that no matter what my vocation is, I am a living, breathing, flute-playing inhabitant of planet Earth. I have come to see that all of our voices, passions, and abilities are an important part of creating a sustainable world through multidisciplinary collaboration. I can volunteer in the cleanup days at the pond near my house, let my voice be heard by participating in marches, call my senator, write letters to prisoners, volunteer in soup kitchens, use public transportation, keep educated, critically consider what examples of music assignments to present to my students, and challenge my music to speak out against injustice. I can pass on what has been shared with me, I can inform and inspire.
Life is an interdisciplinary art where the question becomes how to artfully integrate and actively respond to critical issues
in the world. It begins with waking up but doesn’t end there. Art is a verb.
How can musicians engage with the wisdom of nature through ecomusicosophy? Deep ecologist Arne Naess (1989) writes about ecosophy, the wisdom of ecological harmony. What if we expand this concept to ecomusicosophy? Listening to other-than-humans can bring an awareness of how to live in harmony and generate a personal connection with all species. Listening to the environment can offer insights into the health of an ecosystem and alter the way humans perceive the natural world because listening cultivates relationship. Musicians can combine inspiration and creativity with ecoliteracy to develop a critical and artistically informed understanding of human impact on the environment.
Introducing music students to ecological issues through sound demonstrates the power of sound to ignite compassion and invites the musician to enter into the conversation through the common language of sound. Collective listening, learning songs of social movements, and understanding consequences of noise pollution can help students engage in critical issues. To musically educate for compassion, educators can create entry points in the curriculum and remind students that their collective listening and ensemble playing prepares them for engagement with the larger community and with all species. Listening to the trees, the shouts of injustice, and the songs of the whales shapes the music and the actions of the listeners. Rabinandrath Tagore poetically points to natural wisdom.
I can give you intellectual knowledge but
You can gain much experience by observing the trees.
When knowledge and experience meet
Wisdom is born.