Stephan Crawford
Telegraph Quartet performs the premiere of Icarus in Flight, San Francisco 2018 Author: Tim Guydish
2024

Stephan Crawford

Interdisciplinary Artist

the climate symphony

meet stephan

As an interdisciplinary artist, Stephan Crawford’s work explores how key nodal points and divergences offer fresh perspectives on our world and our role within it. These points of convergence often emerge where seemingly disparate realms, disciplines, or ideas intersect, such as the broad overlap of science and art. As part of his studio practice, Crawford is the co-founder of The ClimateMusic Project (ClimateMusic.org), a cross-cutting collaborative that connects people everywhere to climate science and action through “science guided” music. ClimateMusic has reached many thousands of people across the world, partnering on programs with globally leading institutions such as The National Academy of Sciences and The World Bank. The ClimateMusic Project has garnered international media coverage, including profiles by The New York Times and the BBC.

the climate symphony
Nominated by: Bonnie Wyper, MR'18
Class of 2024 Location USA
Follow stephan's work:
Premiere of Audyssey with composer Eduardo Del Signore on stage at a 2022 New York Times event
Premiere of Audyssey with composer Eduardo Del Signore on stage at a 2022 New York Times event Author: Alain McLaughlin

The challenge of effectively communicating the urgency of climate action is not unlike the difficulty Galileo faced in the 17th Century in trying to convince Pope Urban VIII that the Earth revolves around the sun. For most people of that time, it must have been self-evident that the Earth was the center of the universe: everyone could plainly see the sun “rise” and “set”.

Similarly, today our perceived everyday experience—e.g., “it’s beautiful out today”— makes it difficult for individuals to assess the long-term threat of global warming. Consequently, for far too many people, the very real urgency of action remains an abstraction, distant from the concerns of daily life. The ClimateMusic Project uses the visceral, intuitive qualities of music to break through this cognitive block

“My work uses the visceral, intuitive qualities of music to effectively communicate the urgency of climate action. More so than scientific lectures or articles, music can resonate, educate, and motivate.”

- Stephan Crawford
2018 Mexico City Performance of Climate
2018 Mexico City Performance of Climate Author: The ClimateMusic Project

Music is familiar, accessible, and—for most people—easier to relate to than scientific articles or lectures. In our work, we combine the talents and expertise of world-class scientists, composers, musicians, artists, and tech pros, to enable the creation and staging of science-guided music and visual experiences. In turn, we hope to inspire people to engage actively on the issue of climate change. I believe that music can resonate, educate, and motivate better than most mediums. As one audience member said: “It’s the most powerful, visceral representation I have seen or heard, because through the rhythm-tempo-dynamics-pitch we embody the meaning behind the music, we aren’t just looking at data and moving on”

I am interested in pushing the boundaries of what music can be and how it mediates positive social change. As humans, we connect to music at a primal level—perhaps it was the rhythm of our own heartbeats that inspired the first percussive music. History has shown that music can inspire us, give us courage in times of crisis, speak truth to power, and challenge us. My work with ClimateMusic takes this a step further, asking: Can music help to personalize and contextualize a complex issue and convey critical insights about it to a broad and diverse public?

That I settled upon “science-guided” music as my vehicle for this process of discovery and communication is easy to explain: Music is a powerful, universal language that communicates viscerally and emotionally. When combined with science, it can transport us on a journey through time to render otherwise abstract information personally felt. Music’s potential in this context is to open minds through hearts.

What compels me to do this work? As an artist, I am most fully awake and engaged in life when I create, and this project began as a powerful idea in my studio. As a person privileged with an interdisciplinary education that spans the arts, sciences, and public policy, I have the opportunity and responsibility to focus my skills and creativity on this issue of paramount urgency. Finally, as a citizen in our society, I see the tremendous potential to not only solve this challenge but also to improve nearly everyone’s lives while doing so: That is my hope for the future.

 

never stop exploring

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE CLASS OF 2024