Classical Music and Sustainability

by Scott Morrison

The climate crisis affects all of us. It requires us to make significant changes in our personal lives, social lives, and in our professional lives as well.

The classical music sector has not yet made the necessary changes to thrive in a net-zero world. Single-use plastics may be slowly disappearing from rehearsal rooms, and single-sided printing may have all but vanished from offices, but the most significant changes – to the values and business models that underpin the sector – are yet to be made.

Classical music sustainability

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftereffects, these old ways of working are disappearing. But the old ways of thinking – defining success as endless growth and unsustainable levels of international travel – need to be made to disappear too.

We need to replace them with smart, innovative solutions that will not only make organisations more sustainable – both economically and ecologically – but that can simultaneously help answer some of the ongoing problems the classical sector faces: exhausting work schedules, a lack of diversity, and a perceived lack of connection to contemporary life, to name but a few.

Though serious work remains to be done, let us not forget the power of the medium with which we work. Through its rich repertoire, and the amazing skill of its composers and performers, classical music - like all

art - can tell stories with more power, beauty and urgency than reports and statistics.

At climate change events, whenever I tell scientists, diplomats or engineers about what I do and where I work, they tell me that they long for the opportunity to be able to reach people’s hearts and minds in the way that the arts can. So, I believe that creative responses to the climate crisis can occupy a unique space in the model of individual, systemic and societal change that will need to occur in the next ten years.

Formed of individual observations, perceptions and feelings, but shared with audiences at a local, national and international level – physically and digitally – creative responses to the climate crisis can act as lightning rods to transmit ideas and feelings farther, faster, and more powerfully.

"Artworks and performances can translate as they transmit"

Art, and especially performances, are about communication. A message, a medium, and an audience. An exchange. The process of creating something is the process of considering how to frame an idea so that it can create a personal experience for, and an emotional response in, your audience – be it an audience of one, a hundred, or a thousand.

Artworks and performances can

translate as they transmit: humanising, incentivising and collectivising difficult and complex facts, transmuting these into feeling, into understanding, into ‘getting it’. Into change.

So, as well as making changes to how we do things, as musicians, let’s remember the unique affective power of the artform we work with – and let’s make use of that as we go about making change.

Scott Crawford Morrison Headshot

Scott works in the UK classical music sector, where he is an experienced project manager and fundraiser. He is currently Senior Development Manager at Sage Gateshead, the music venue and charity in the North East of England, where he leads on their Environmental Responsibility work.

Scott is a member of the Green Arts Initiative Steering Group, co-founder of the award winning Scottish Classical Sustainability Group, and co-author of the Scottish Classical Music Green Guide. (Read more here: https://www.creativecarbonscot...). He is especially interested in the role the arts can play in a just transition towards net-zero.

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