Music & Environmental Education

Applying Music to Earth Literacy Studies
 Health
 Sense of place
 Understanding the natural world will help us achieve
 But knowledge is not enough; we need to change
 We need a personal connection
 The body of skills and knowledge that fosters sustainable, peaceful,
and thriving communities . It includes the following:
 Knowledge of science (scientific principles and the scientific
method ) coupled with knowledge of nature’s signs and
symbols gained through first-hand experience
 Awareness of interdependence on multiple scales, including
ecological, societal, and global
 Understanding that biological diversity is tied to ecological
resilience and the processes that sustain all life (including human)
 Understanding that ecological integrity nourishes social equity and
environmental justice
 Recognizing that all life is intimately connected to, and emerges
from, Earth and ultimately the Universe itself
 Respecting the integrity, resilience, and beauty of human and
natural communities while incorporating reflection and reverence
into one’s way of life
 Prominent thinkers believed that music is a
fundamental element of nature, linked to the
functioning of the cosmos, while also providing a
connection between humans and the natural world.
 The Greek mathematician
Pythagoras (circa 560-circa 480
 Mathematical relationships
express qualities or ‘tones' of
energy which manifest in
numbers, visual angles, shapes and
sounds – all connected within a
pattern of proportion (Wikipedia).
 Plato (427-347 BCE) described
music as something that establishes
and perfects the inherent connection
between the human soul and that of
the cosmos
 Wrote that music helps to "bring
order to any orbit in our souls that
has become unharmonized" .
 The Chinese philosopher,
Confucius (551-479 BCE),
thought that music was
necessary to maintain order in
both human society and the
 Some historians feel that, particularly during the 18th-century
Enlightenment, there was an increasing "disenchantment" of
nature associated with the rise of "objective" scientific study.
 This may have lessened the degree to which music was seen as a
fundamental part of nature.
 Also around this time, the critical interpretation of music
shifted into divergent paradigms:
 a subject to be scrutinized by scientific methods,
 an artistic form of expression
 The philosophical separation of artistic and scientific
interpretations of music persist in modified form today.
 The dualistic interpretation of music can be compared to
the general shift in attitude about the relationship between
humans and the natural world.
 The Scientific Revolution (circa 1500-1800) is often considered
a time of increasing disenchantment of humans with nature
 one result has been our exploitative relationships with the nature
 The plea by modern environmentalists to re-establish a deep
connection between humans and the natural world is echoed
by some musicians, who seek a re-enchantment of music and
 Lyrics can be informative
 Can stimulate interest
 Enhance perceptions of the value of the natural world,
especially when nature itself is recognized as being
 A point of connection between humans and the natural
 Inspire environmental action and advocacy while also
helping to foster empathy for the natural world.
 educational songs
 Rosie Emory, “Recycling Boogie”
 Dana Lyons and John Seed, “Expanding universe”
 Dana Lyons and John Seed, “Have to Have a Habitat “
 Dana Lyons and John Seed “The Tree”
 songs of place
 Grant Livingston, “Melaleuca”
 Grant Livingston, “The Voice of the River”
 Woody Guthrie, “This Land is Your land”
 historical songs
 Woody Guthrie, “Dusty Old Dust (So Long It’s Been Good to Know
 Woody Guthrie, “Oregon Trail”
 Natural sounds may be
considered music too
 Acknowledgement of
nature as a musical entity
helps to raise its standing,
providing additional
justification of its intrinsic
value, and reasons for its
 Some animals have aural displays that are
rhythmic, melodious, integral to their
behavior and social system, and also pleasing
to the human ear. Examples include:
 many birds, such as the American robin
 cetaceans, such as the humpback whale
 primates, including gibbons and the howler
 the howling of wolves and coyotes
 the croaks, trills, and rhythmic phrases of
frogs and toads
insects, such as crickets and cicadas
 Many abiotic sounds might also be considered musical
 the rhythmic splashing of waves
 the pattering of rain
 the thunder of lightning
 the rustling of wind in foliage.
 Beethoven's Symphony Number 6, the Pastoral, was partly
inspired by walks in the countryside.
 Its five movements relate to natural themes
 "Scene by the Brook" (2nd movement)
 "Thunderstorm" (4th movement).
 Both have melodies inspired by natural sound, including birds,
running water, raindrops, and thunder.
 "New Age" music involves a fusion of
natural sound and the music of humans.
 Dan Gibson accompanies bird song and
other natural sounds with classical and
modern music.
 “Into the sun”
 Such a fusion of natural and
anthropogenic music represents a
connection between humans and nature
 perhaps making it more difficult for the
former to justify exploiting the latter.
 The natural world, even the universe itself, may be
viewed as music
 Music helps us connect to nature on a personal level
 The sounds of nature are also music
 Music may be used in nature teaching as a learning
 Now, let’s write a song!
 Turner, Kate and Freedman, Bill. Music and
Environmental Studies. Journal of Environmental
Education 36.1 (Fall 2004).

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