The sweltering summer heat, a continuous downpour, or nippy weather can inspire ditties or orchestral pieces.
In the case of Brett Dean, Australian composer, conductor and violist, music served as a response to events like the devastating bushfires in Melbourne that snuffed out 173 lives in 2009. It was a clear-cut illustration of how weather and the environment can provide the stimulus for great compositions.
Dean’s weather-inspired musical composition features guitar riffs, a base drum roll, and percussion. The swirling, broiling effect of sounds reflects the intensity of the “Black Saturday” fire that engulfed Australia and also depicts the unending cycle of destruction of nature.
In creating Fire Music, Brett Dean joined lots of other classical composers who have depicted atmospheric phenomena in their compositions. Dean responded to the emotions stirred by the catastrophe, as evidenced by the finished product.
Fire Music has been a defining moment in Brett Dean’s work as a composer. It showed how he can act in response to things going on around him. Hence, Fire Music may be regarded as a social commentary, not just a depiction of a dreadful extreme weather-related event — the bushfire.
Years earlier, in the mid 1990s, Dean had also written something that depicted winter, which was used for the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet.
Another musician who has also tapped weather circumstances as subject for their musical works is Kronos Quartet violinist David Harrington. Harrington has explored the impact of Hurricane Sandy, and has also played quartet portions in Fire Music by Brett Dean.
Meantime, among the composers who have addressed climate change through their music are Mason Bates and John Luther Adams. Adams has tackled many weather-related subjects. The title of his operatic work Earth and the Great Weather say it all. Indeed, the weather has always found expression in the works of many musical artists, enticing listeners to journey and experience things in a whole new light.