Requiem for fossil fuels is a timely and deep meditation on the culture, its fascinations, and its future.
O+A (Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger) perform their composition, Requiem for fossil fuels, playing an 8-channel “Orchestra of Cities” on two keyboards, with four soloists. Though they are known primarily as sound artists, Odland and Auinger returned to their roots in classical composition to write a completely new vocal setting of the Requiem Mass, performed by singers Hai-Ting Chinn, mezzo soprano; Martha Cluver, soprano; Geoffrey Silver, tenor; and Mark Uhlemann, bass.
Requiem for fossil fuels is performed — not in the usual classical music venues — but in architecturally and culturally iconic spaces around the globe that speak to our use of fossil fuels; “cathedrals” to shopping, automobiles, traffic, air travel, coal mining, pharmaceuticals, global climate change, and plastic. O+A has performed Requiem for fossil fuels at Elizabethkirche in Berlin, a bombed-out cathedral to World War II; at the cathedral to cultural change, Judson Memorial Church in Manhattan; in the Silicon Valley cathedral of St. Joseph’s Basilica in San Jose; and at the World Financial Center in New York City, a powerfully resonant cathedral to the economy.
Requiem for fossil fuels is the result of more than twenty years of work and collaboration by Odland and Auinger to transform fossil-fuelled city noise into harmony. Materials for Requiem for fossil fuels come from O+A’s collection of recordings made in their ongoing search for a “Hearing Perspective” on the sounds we make as a culture. From the extraordinary sonic voices extracted from cities around the world, O+A have constructed a playable digital orchestra which provides the location recordings and real-time flow as the cantus firmus for the Requiem. Over this “baseline song” come soloistic “voices” of helicopters, jets, traffic, busses, horns, train wheels, footsteps of commuters, sirens: the found “voices” of a fossil fueled culture, organized as music. Against and sometimes with this “Orchestra of Cities” are the human voices of singers and the text of the full Requiem Mass.
Requiem for fossil fuels is a bold composition to be performed as we struggle as a culture to come to terms with how we choose to power our lives and how those choices affect the planet.