Sounds of Cop 26: Staff Picks

Being based in the city hosting the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (or Cop26) we've been thinking about music that responds to the themes and concerns we share for a sustainable future.

12 November 2021

From here in our Glasgow office at the epicentre of the 12-day proceedings beamed globally across continents and watched with curious eyes, we thought we would share with you a playlist that reflects our feelings, wishes, and hopes for a sustainably led future. As the dust from thousands of new and returning visitors settles, we are able to reflect on the shared experience that music allows us to unite in, and how we as participants can find solace and power, in listening. 

Feel free to join in sharing your playlists too, we had a lot of earnest fun with this one… 

The Playlist

Environments, Floating Points
When coming up with music for this playlist I thought of this track first because of its title. I’m not sure why it’s called Environments, but the conflict between the serene drawn-out melody line and the industrial drum track seem like two very contrasting environments and could easily be interpreted as the divide between rural and urban, balanced and distorted, or natural and manufactured.

Plantasia, Mort Garson
As both a houseplant enthusiast and self-professed synth nerd this whole album from 1976 is the perfect combination, summed up by its subtitle ‘warm earth music for plants… and the people who love them’. I find the idea of electronic synthesised music having this natural, organic property really interesting, and perhaps reflects a healthier approach to how we in the current technology-driven world should interact with our surroundings.  

Sumer is icumen in 
An Old English traditional song, composer anon. it demonstrates that we’ve always sang and celebrated the seasons. 

La Mer, Charles Trenet
The sea is inspiring and terrifying. It takes us to new places, it feeds us, so much of it is still unknown to us. If we continue to mistreat the sea, it will end our civilisation as we know it. This song is all about the romance of the sea and the cliffs and the birds and lovely contours.  

An Acre of Land, PJ Harvey
For a few years I lived abroad, in Canada. To my surprise what I found I missed most about home wasn’t bacon or tea but the countryside. During my time out there a couple of fantastic British films set in the countryside came out – Dark River and The Levelling. Both are wonderful, atmospheric (if bleak) films, and made me long for an autumnal walk in the country back home, damp in the air and leaves underfoot. My first track, by PJ Harvey, is from the Soundtrack to Dark River. 

Four Sea Interludes – Dawn, Benjamin Britten
The second ties to a very specific place, Aldeburgh in Suffolk. Somewhere where my family have been holidaying for decades. Of course, Aldeburgh is closely associated with Benjamin Britten, and his Sea Interludes always make me think of Aldeburgh Beach, Orford Ness and the strange and bleak area that is. It’s a magical and special place and landscape.

(Nothing but) Flowers, Talking Heads
An aggressively optimistic stance on rewilding from Talking Heads. 

Who knows where the time goes? Fairport Convention
Where did all the time go? No time like the present to put those sustainability plans into action. 

Where the light is, John Mayer Live in Los Angeles
Ironically positive sounding, yet Mayer sings of a sad reality 

We Shall Overcome, Joan Baez
An old civil rights protest song, instils hope, faith, defiance, determination  

Feels Like Summer, Childish Gambino
Sounds like a soundtrack to summer days but the environmentally focussed lyrics tell a different story

All we got, Chance the Rapper ft Kanye West
The lyrics “music is all we got” feel appropriate, both in the sense that this planet is all we’ve got, and that music is often a powerful means of invoking emotion, action, and inspiring change #pretentious #sorrynotsorry #pleasedon’tincludethesehashtags #sorryiincludedthesehashtags 

Degree of Change, KMRU
Nairobian sound artist Joseph Kamaru makes me feel nostalgic for a landscape I am unfamiliar with but feel akin to. The drawls of echoing sound, repetitive and chamberic feels organic yet nuanced at the same time. I am reminded of the experiences that are shared across continents, and the 3-4°C that might separate us. 

 Seabird, Maria Somerville
The sea, the sea, what else to say. The serene image of swooping birds inevitably aids a much-privileged convalescence from the ‘climate fatigue’ that can so often surround high intensity meetings as the Cop-26. The whole weeks process has been a mix of enlightenment, sheer will and blah blah blah… Seabird shelters a hope that all is not lost… and on our lucky shores always there is the sea to recover, recharge, then return to the fight. 


Bonus listening: Isn’t it a Pity, Nina Simone 

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