Ensemble Means (quintet)

Ensemble Means is a quintet “mustification” of rising temperature readings.The ensemble plays from observations and makes forecasts.


The Earplay Ensemble played the first performance on 1 May, 2022 at CCRMA.

Tod Brody, flute
Matt Ingalls, clarinet
Terrie Baune, violin
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Leighton Fong, Cello
Mary Chun, conductor

Ensemble Means is a quintet derived from the Earth Symphony project which was programmed for Earth Day 2020. The 50th year. The global celebration that never was. Had it happened, the music would have conveyed dramatic environmental and climate science data through performance. Instead, we’ve experienced rapid and catastrophic world change during the pandemic. The science that the music was based on has continued forward and attention to it has grown. This new piece is fashioned in line with the original idea and communicates the inexorable and no less dramatic world change happening from rising temperatures around the globe.

The nine sections are settings of temperature data from the last three decades. A global set of weather stations have been juxtaposed as sources for musification by the quintet. The monthly averages have been processed by software (some few thousand lines of code) which outputs a score. The performers predict future temperature trends musically through improvised extensions ending each of the sections. They become the predictors. These scenarios run up to 2030.

Philippe Tortell is the editor of “Earth 2020: An Insider’s Guide to a Rapidly Changing Planet” and was the instigator of the Earth Symphony project. Thanks to him the work continues and I’m indebted to many of his colleagues and students at the University of British Columbia for their insights, encouragement and data sets. Jan Stoltenberg, trumpet and Justin Yang, alto saxophone provided improvisations that are played back during the piece.