Home Events Climate Music Icarus Concert: What Does Global Heating Feel Like?

Climate Music Icarus Concert: What Does Global Heating Feel Like?

April 27th from 7-8:15pm ET

Join us as we take an extraordinary musical journey through time to explore three human drivers of climate change. We will be featuring an excerpt of Icarus in Flight by composer Richard Festinger in collaboration with The ClimateMusic Project. The evening will include an opportunity to engage in conversation about the music and the science underlying it with the composer and ClimateMusic Project Executive Director Stephan Crawford. Q&A to follow. Moderated by Senior Fellow Dr. Dianne Saxe

This event is presented in partnership with ClimateMusic Project.

Program notes for Icarus in Flight by composer Richard Festinger:

In modeling the earth’s changing climate, my new quartet, Icarus in Flight, uses historical data on population growth, carbon emissions and land-use transformation, during the period 1880 projected out to 2080, to control certain aspects of the music.

  • Population growth controls the average density of musical events over time, increasing, in the worst case, by a factor of 9. In this context, density means the number of musical events in a given time period (if more than one instrument initiates an event at the same time it is still considered one event).
  • Carbon emissions control the frequency range of the music, from lowest to highest pitch, increasing gradually from a perfect fifth in the middle register to a span of 6.25 octaves, before collapsing to almost nothing. 
  • With respect to land-use, an increase from 13% to 43% of the earth¹s land surface devoted to human use (i.e. habitation, agriculture and grazing) is represented by the increasing proportion of music that is played with specialized timbres (tone colors), including mainly pizzicato, tremolo bowing, and bowing close to the bridge (producing a fragile timbre characterized by a greater proportion of high frequency partials).

The era of international cooperation on climate change begins circa 1979.  If one listens closely one can hear fleeting moments of repose on the interval of a major 3rd marking the dates of international meetings.

Icarus in Flight is comprised of three large sections played without pause: the first representing the years 1880 to 1945, when the data are growing slowly; the second from 1945 to 2015 when growth accelerates exponentially; and the third from 2015 to 2080.  In the last section, our future, the controlling data alternate between the best and worst case future scenarios (i.e., representative concentration pathways 2.6 and 8.5) based on the models developed by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific body under the auspices of the United Nations. Each year occupies eight seconds of musical time, the entire piece lasting about 27 minutes. 

The title of my new quartet offers a metaphor for the trajectory of climate change.  Imprisoned by King Minos on the isle of Crete, the brilliant Athenian craftsman Daedalus fashioned wings of feathers fixed with wax for himself and his son Icarus, so to escape from the isle by flight.  Daedalus warned his son against flight too low or too high, to avoid both the ladening dampness of the sea and the wax-melting heat of the sun. Elated by the thrill of flight, Icarus ignored his father¹s admonitions, venturing high into an environment too warm to sustain him.


Apr 27 2021


7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Virtual Event


  • Dianne Saxe
    Dianne Saxe
    Dr. Dianne Saxe is one of Canada’s most respected environmental lawyers, with 40+ years’ unparalleled experience writing, interpreting, and litigating Ontario’s energy and environmental laws. An experienced team leader with substantial board experience; a skilled communicator with broad strategic vision. Hard-won expertise in government relations, corporate governance and public consultation. A can-do person always striving to make a difference. Now heading SaxeFacts Law Professional Corporation, providing legal and strategic inspiration and direction on climate, energy and environment. Leadership training and experience: 2015 to 2019, Dr. Dianne Saxe was the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). She was appointed unanimously by all MPPs to report to the Legislature on Ontario’s environmental, energy and climate performance, and to be the guardian of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). During her term, she improved the effectiveness of the Environmental Bill of Rights, increased public understanding of the urgency of climate change, and delivered 17 reports on environment, energy and climate. Board Experience: More than 20 years’ experience on public and private boards, including Draxis board and audit committee (public issuer). Non-profit organizations included Secretary of Evergreen, a $10 million/year environmental charity; president and chair of the Windshare renewable energy cooperative; Ontario Bar Association Investment Committee. Extensive professional assistance to boards and board members, especially on issues of personal and environmental liability. Author: Environmental Protection – Guidance & Recommendations for Boardroom Practice. Canadian Board Diversity Council Get on Board, Intermediate program. Business Experience: 25 years running her own small business, a highly regarded environmental law boutique. A Certified Environmental Law Specialist, Commissioner Saxe was recognized by all major legal rating services, including acknowledgement as one of the world’s top 25 environmental lawyers by Best of the Best, 2008 and as Best Lawyers’ first Environmental Lawyer of the Year for Toronto. Professional Qualifications: Ph.D. in Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, 1991. Ontario Bar, 1976. LL.B., Osgoode Hall Law School, 1974.
  • Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky
    Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky
    Gavia Lertzman-Lepofsky is a PhD student at the University of Toronto in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology where she studies the roles of evolutionary history and contemporary ecological interactions in shaping patterns of biodiversity across the globe. She has worked on projects including conservation ecology and the effects of climate change on populations. She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of HEARTBEAT, an initiative based in Vancouver that builds community and celebrates diversity through music. When she’s not wading in ponds catching frogs or on an adventure in the mountains, you can find her playing jazz violin and daydreaming about when music venues will be able to reopen. 
  • Richard Festinger
    Richard Festinger
    Richard Festinger has garnered international recognition for his extensive catalogue of compositions. The Tanglewood Festival describes his music as “notable for its combination of propulsive energy with an impeccable sense of poise and balance,” and WQXR Radio in New York dubbed him “an American master.” Professor emeritus of San Francisco State University, he co-founded the San Francisco based Earplay ensemble. Published by C.F. Peters and Wildcat Canyon Press, his works are recorded by Naxos, Bridge, CRI, Centaur, and CRS. The recipient of numerous awards and commissions, his work has twice been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. www.richardfestinger.com
  • Stephan Crawford
    Stephan Crawford
    Stephan Crawford is the San Francisco-based artist who conceived and launched The ClimateMusic Project. He combines interdisciplinary insight with a mind for synthesis, qualities which sparked the project’s creation. Since its creation in 2015, The ClimateMusic Project has reached thousands of people around the world through its powerful performances that inspire and facilitate climate action. It has garnered global press coverage. Stephan holds a graduate degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and a Master of Science in environmental management with a focus on environmental science from the University of San Francisco.

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