Music in “Land” Ethics

Today is May 1st, which is international labor day. But instead of having a relaxing day, I have been laboring it out in orchestra all day. I am part of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra had we had our last concert of the season today. We had an amazing program lined up which included Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Although there were some sections that almost fell apart, overall the concert was a great success. At the end, we received a standing ovation from the audience. It was a great feeling and a very nice way to end my freshman year in orchestra.

But after this concert, it got me thinking about the land ethics. Leopold argued for the inclusion on the natural world into our idea of community. Including it would allow humans to be able to care for it and feel responsible for it. I was thinking if this same idea could be placed on music. Put music as a non-biotic feature of nature and protect it under this “land” ethics framework.

Sounds occur naturally in nature, such as the cry of the bird or the howling of the wind. But sound can also be created bioticly. With the help of human ingenuity, the development of instruments that allow us to create sound on paper and music notation that allows these sounds to be passed on. Although music could be considered a human construct, it can also be part of the natural environment. We can imagine the music as a wheat crop. It has been around for centuries and been apart of human life. The improvement of agriculture technology could be seen as the development in instruments and notation. I think what I am trying to get at is that there is essentially no much difference between a wheat crop and a music piece of work (except for the fact that one is tangible and the other is not).

As music is a human construct (just like nature – in some people’s view at least), it should be protected as well. I am speaking from a very classical music point of view. With the decrease in interest in classical music, it is currently a dying art form. So by placing it in this protective state, it could potentially be able to be saved. What I am trying to get at is that I personally would add classical music and natural sounds into my land ethic. To make it apart of what I would see and protect. We should interact with this new portion of the “land” like any other type of land. It needs to be treated with respect and people need to learn to appreciate the beauty of this music, rather than just wave it aside and underappreciate the genius of these wonderful composers. It is essentially like discovering a whole new clade of organisms or finding a cure to a disease. Appreciation and learn.

I could be totally crazy by saying this, or this could potentially be a very innovative idea. I really do wonder which one I am.


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