Educating people about climate change, through music

What if you could hear climate change? Physicist Robert Davies and the Fry Street Quartet are blending music and the science of sustainability to educate audiences and spur public action.


What if you could hear climate change?

Physicist Robert Davies and the Fry Street Quartet are blending music and the science of sustainability to educate audiences and spur public action.

Let's listen in.

Robert Davies is a physicist by training.

He also feels it's important to share science with non-scientists.

I was giving lots of public science lectures on climate change and finding that the audiences were understanding the information intellectually...

But he discovered that lectures aren't always the most effective means of communication.

The information is telling them that they're existing on the edge of some very extreme risk, but it doesn't feel like that to most of us in middle-class America.

And so, how do we connect on a more personal level?

...functions and connections...

He found one answer in a field separate from science.

This is something the arts is just tailor-made for and serves us so well in society.

So I approached the Fry Street Quartet to see if they would be interested in collaborating on a joint musical project and then along with some other digitals artists to put this together.


This is what he calls The Crossroads Project.


I like to call it performance science as well as performance art.

It's a communication project that seeks to use and leverage the arts in service of communicating just some very critical ideas about global sustainability and climate change.


Davies recently brought The Crossroads Project to the University of Central Florida.

Before their performance, members engaged the university community in a more traditional setting.

We wanted to host a series of workshops that would engage both the students and the faculty regarding sustainable issues, understanding where individual perspectives come from, the types of behaviors that we're encouraged to engage in, as well as sharing ideas and solutions for the barriers and individual factors that keep us from taking part.

...what makes us feel capable versus what makes us...

Just hearing what students feel about the matter shows us how we should go about giving the information to other students so they don't feel guilted or they feel positive and want to be motivated to make a change on the UCF campus.

In addition to opening lines of communication, the workshop provided valuable insights for the Crossroads performers.

It's important for us, I think, as the performers on this topic, to hear where the audience is, to hear from their mouths how they're thinking about these issues, what their conceptions are, in some cases what their misconceptions are.

That informs how we approach it.

Certainly will inform how I approach tonight's performance.

♪♪ One thing that sound evokes is the music of a Spring morning.

♪♪ The performance itself is a series of vignettes.

I like to call it sort of a poetic science lecture combined with some very compelling imagery.

What the imagery does is allow us to show what the impacts of our lives are on the natural systems around us, the living systems around us, to include other people and other places.

[ Speaking indistinctly ] And then, each vignette is concluded by a movement of a string quartet, performed by the Fry Street Quartet.


I feel my duty, first and foremost, is to communicate through my playing.

♪♪ I think the music is one of the most powerful elements in the performance, the idea being that the musical space is the opportunity the audience has to really ruminate on what they've told.

16,000 plastic bags.

[ Speaking indistinctly ]

That thought process is the heart of Project Crossroads' mission.

The performance is really designed for people who already understand we have these problems but maybe just aren't behaving like it.

And so it's to take them to a place that motivates them largely on an ethical basis.

Asks the question, 'Is what you're seeing consistent with the person you see yourself to be?'

♪♪ The risks we face as a global civilization at this point are enormous.

It is not mandated that this will play out catastrophically.

Our aim isn't to educate you, really, on this performance.

Our aim is to motivate you strongly to educate yourself, and one of the aspects of that is just talking about these topics, among our peers, among our colleagues, among our families, certainly in our public lives, talk about it.