W hen it comes to understanding the climate crisis, Andrew MacKelvie knows that "the numbers don't mean anything out of context." The fixture in Halifax's jazz and improv scenes has spent four months wading through data about the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, looking to find a way to wake us up from environmental apathy.
"As an improviser, I'm interested in how you can transfer extra-musical things into music," he explains—so, when MacKelvie noticed the data range looked a lot like "notes kind of around a middle C," he got to work transcribing parts per million to hertz, building two synthesizers on his computer that play off each other. A literal soundtrack to our changing climate—accompanied by layered visuals cut out of different images.
This week, he brings the result to Art Bar + Projects, performing with his band New Hermitage on Wednesday night.
1 MacKelvie tracks the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by having one of his two synths play a constant tone that represents the amount of carbon dioxide in the air the week he was born. The second synth follows a "microtonal climb", rising every second to match the increasingly polluted air throughout his lifetime. "It gets much more dissonant and tense the further they get from each other," he adds.
2 MacKelvie took an old family photo of him playing the sax and superimposed it with sky to represent the way our world has been changing around us. "I'd mainly like people to use their imaginations [when viewing the show]," MacKelvie adds. "It's more in your imagination and sitting with and dealing with uncertainty and anxiety."
3 "I hope it gives people a sense of physicality, a feeling of this is what the uncomfortableness of climate change feels like," MacKelvie says of the piece.