Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for orchestra, men’s chorus, and children’s chorus, Julia Wolfe’s unEarth is a large-scale work that addresses the climate crisis. Performed in three movements, the 40 minute piece is realized with spatial staging and scenic design projected on a large circular screen.
The first movement, Flood, is a sonic and textual reference to the ancient flood story.
The second movement, Forest, gathers the word for “tree” from a wide range of languages spoken around the world and interlocks them into a rhythmic web, representing the interdependence within the forest ecosystem. This is followed by the eerily prescient words of Emily Dickinson’s Who Robbed the Woods.
The third movement, Fix It, takes its language from the science of climate change, words of protest, and thoughts gathered from conversations on climate change with the Young People’s Chorus of New York (ages 8–18.)
As with my previous large-scale “subject” works, unEarth was developed with in-depth reading and extensive research. While earlier works have addressed historical crises that have clear resonances with the present, the subject of climate change is now. I am inspired by the great discovery, invention, and creativity of scientists working in the field, of writers articulating the terrifying details of the crisis, and by the many activists, young and old, who are calling out to the public. While art can not solve the crisis, my hope is that this poetic plea engages the listener in this urgent conversation.