Classical 91.5

5 Classical Pieces to Ring in the (Earth Day) Season

Apr 17, 2017

The Empire Film Music Ensemble Executive Team

This is a guest post from Claire Caverly, a member of the Empire Film Music Ensemble (EFME). EFME will be performing an Earth Day centered concert, TERRA, on Earth Day, April 22, at 6PM at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation. TERRA is a multimedia experience exploring humanity’s changing relationship with the Earth through music, film, lighting, and photography. More information can be found at

While it doesn’t come with ribbons or bows, Earth Day is one of the most important holidays of the year  - but also one of the most forgotten. The earth is our home, but modern, on-the-go lifestyles don’t leave much time for environmental awareness. In order to raise eco-consciousness, we at Empire Film Music Ensemble have been hard at work preparing our upcoming Earth Day concert, TERRA. To help you get in the spirit of going green, here are five classical pieces to listen to in honor of Earth Day.


1.     Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony, No. 6

In a letter from 1810, Ludwig van Beethoven writes, "How delighted I will be to ramble for awhile through the bushes, woods, under trees, through grass, and around rocks. No one can love the country as much as I do. For surely woods, trees, and rocks produce the echo that man desires to hear.” Beethoven’s deep love of nature is apparent throughout his sixth symphony as he pens the peace of a country brooke, an intense storm scene, and the joy of country-life. Regarding his sixth symphony, Beethoven wrote that he hoped to evoke a feeling rather than paint a scene, masterfully capturing the serenity of rural life.

2.     Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals

Earth Day isn’t all about the trees; it’s about the animals too! Camille Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals depicts twittering birds, bouncing kangaroos, and the mysterious unknown of undersea life in his delightfully zoological work.

3.     Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “The Lark Ascending”

Inspired by George Meredith’s poem of the same name, Vaughn Williams paints the serene image of a lone lark soaring above a busy pastoral scene. Listeners can hear the lark’s voice freely singing in the solo violin part as routine daily life continues within the orchestra. In the beginning of the piece, the orchestra serves as a juxtaposition for the freedom of the lark’s song, but as the piece continues, the orchestral part reflects the freedom and sweeping melody of the lark more and more, demonstrating the drive for freedom that nature so often symbolizes. Ralph Vaughn Williams brilliantly captures this desire for freedom found within Meredith’s poem, and sends this message through the voice of a bird, portrayed by solo violin.

4. Koyaanisqatsi by Phillip Glass

A more avant-garde work, Glass’ Koyaanisqatsi was composed as the soundtrack to a film of the same name. This piece more directly focuses on humanity’s impact on nature and technology’s impact on humanity, though the film has no storyline. The title translated from the Hopi language means “life out of balance,” and this term is chanted at the beginning and end of the piece, offering the statement that out modern life is in a state of turmoil and we as humans have lost our natural way of being.

5. Film scores

Here at Empire Film Music Ensemble, film music is the genre we are most partial to, and when looking for great nature-themed film scores, there are just too many great examples to choose just one! The soundtracks to Planet Earth, Disney’s WALL-E, Interstellar, and Tomorrowland all capture the Earth’s magnitude and majesty through soaring melodies and ground-shaking bass. These, however, are only a few examples of the great music found within nature-based films.

This list goes to show how inspirational nature has been to composers throughout centuries in vastly different ways. Each piece on this list captures a different spirit of nature, and we at Empire Film Music Ensemble hope you hear all of these works in their entirety, though many will be featured on TERRA, Empire Film Music Ensemble’s Earth Day concert. Please share your favorite Earth Day music in the comment section below, and we hope to see you at TERRA on April 22 at 6 PM.