The Royal Scottish National Orchestra debuted composer David Earl’s new symphony in late October 2019. Earl began writing the symphony in 2018 inspired by the manuscript for Robert Hazen’s book, Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything. Both book and symphony celebrate carbon through movements linked to the four classic elements of Greek mythology – earth, air, fire, and water.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra Releases “Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony”
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) offers its October 2019 recording of Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony to the Deep Carbon Observatory community gratis in December 2019 before its public release. Download a MP3 file here until 31 January 2020.
RSNO and DCO are providing this gift of music to commemorate DCO’s decade of discovery, the “Year of Carbon,” and to launch the next decade of deep carbon science. In 2020, Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony will become available for purchase from music streaming platforms and by visiting RSNO Recordings.
With Scotland’s prominent role in the history of geology, it is fitting for its national orchestra to debut a symphony about carbon and its critical role in the evolution of Earth. The DCO is honored to present this mingling of art and science to broader audiences in partnership with RSNO. RSNO, one of Europe's leading orchestras, was established in 1891 and has a vibrant future planned.
Intermingling Art, Music, Nature, and Science
RSNO and conductor Ben Gernon brought Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony to musical life for the very first time during live recording sessions on 24-25 October 2019 in Glasgow Scotland. Composer David Earl completed the symphony in March 2019 after being introduced in 2018 to the manuscript for Robert Hazen’s pending book, Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything, through a mutual friend. Both David Earl and Bob Hazen (Carnegie Institution for Science, USA) appreciate the intermingling of art, music, nature, and science. Hazen, although primarily a scientist, used his perspective from over four decades as a professional musician to communicate the story of carbon for a broad audience. In the book, published in May 2019, Hazen framed the complex and integral role of elemental carbon in life and on Earth as a symphony with movements inspired by four classic elements of Greek mythology – earth, air, fire, and water.
In 2019, with the encouragement of DCO’s Executive Committee, Hazen and Earl began to explore options to perform and/or record the new symphony as a DCO synthesis product and finale for the DCO’s first decade of discoveries in deep carbon science. Earl eventually identified an opportunity with the renowned RSNO which led to a partnership among Earl, Hazen, RSNO, and DCO.
Music Brought to Life
Composer David Earl worked with Tammo Schuelke, RSNO’s Artistic Planning Manager, to bring the recording effort to fruition with Producer Matthew Bennett and Sound Engineer Hedd Morfett-Jones. Ben Gernon, who conducted the symphony’s debut, is a youthful, yet well established, British conductor which seems apt as the DCO is propelled into its second decade by the enthusiasm and collaboration of early career scientists—many who have already contributed significantly to deep carbon science just as Gernon has contributed to interpreting the symphonic repertoire.
The creation and debut of composer David Earl’s 2019, Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony, was featured in the DCO’s October 2019 newsletter, providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the world of professional music. Likewise, the publication of Robert Hazen’s book Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything was featured and more fully discussed in DCO’s June 2019 newsletter. However, the editing and preparation of the complete symphony for release took a number of weeks and until the release of this article only DCO and RSNO staff have heard the symphony in its entirety.
Hazen is both thrilled and honored to have the “stunning” symphony and recent RSNO complement his book. According to Hazen, “The work (and its marvelous performance by the RSNO) beautifully captures the spirit of carbon—its many moods and implications, the sweep of the story from intimate details to grand soaring themes.”
Hazen also says that Earl has “distilled the dichotomy of carbon in the modern age—good servant and bad master, wrapped together.” From his first glance at the score, Hazen “was touched by [the] use of the C-A-R-B theme--never too obvious, but a powerful motif in its own right, changing moods from aggressive to lyrical to sprightly to noble. And [the] use of brass is especially effective. It made me want to pick up the horn again, if only to blare out that first movement fanfare and join in the majestic finale.”
The RSNO recording was a first and critical step in bringing Symphony in C: A Carbon Symphony to life, however, Hazen and Earl both look forward to the next step of a premiere live performance of the symphony by RSNO or another orchestra. Stay tuned.
DCO thanks Hazen and Earl for exploring the frontiers of art, music, nature, and science.