From the hush-hush murmur of wind in the high forest canopy to the sharp trills and tweets of songbirds and the hypnotic sound of water moving with the tides, it’s no wonder that across the ages, people have translated nature’s diverse rhythms and tones into music. Discover three examples of how music is now, in turn, being used to inspire people around the world to care for nature.
Symphony in the Flint Hills
As twilight fell on a warm evening in 2006, the rich, layered sound of the Kansas City Symphony and its accompanying chorus swelled over a crowd of 5,000 music lovers and wafted across TNC’s Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve—in the heart of the largest expanse of tallgrass prairie left in the world.
Since then, the concert has become the signature annual event of a local organization appropriately named Symphony in the Flint Hills. The performance is hosted at different locations in the Flint Hills each year but returned to the preserve in 2015 when, in celebration of its 10th anniversary, the orchestra accompanied singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett.
Symphony in the Flint Hills and TNC share a commitment to protecting this serene and biodiverse region. “The profound emotions we feel when we listen to music are much the same as the deep connection that is felt when immersed in nature,” says TNC Kansas Trustee Patty Reece, who served on the Symphony in the Flint Hills board and owns land in the region. “To listen to music in the Flint Hills is an experience like none other. These lyrics from The Sound of Music say it best: The hills are alive with the sound of music / With songs they have sung for a thousand years.”
Sharing the Songs of a Nation
Tucked between China and Russia, Mongolia is one of the least densely populated countries on Earth. Today, the nation’s sweeping grasslands are at risk from development and climate change.
To bring what is at stake to the attention of more people, TNC’s Asia Pacific team curated a playlist to highlight Mongolian history, cultures and modern realities. Enkhtuya Oidov, senior advisor to TNC in Mongolia, chose to share “I am a Mongolian,” a song based on a poem that children learn in school and that stirs national pride. The lyrics, translated to English, say, I am born in [a] herder ger[a round nomadic dwelling] / I think grasslands are my home /River water is like mother’s milk / I am a Mongolian who loves their motherland.
TNC began working in Mongolia in 2008 and since then has played a role in helping communities sustainably manage 3 million hectares of land and 4,000 herders secure a more resilient livelihood.
THE GULF COAST, UNITED STATES
Fire Gets a Good Rap
Founded in 2017, TNC’s GulfCorps program has helped create more than 450 jobs for young adults from vulnerable coastal communities. Many participants have gone on to careers in the environmental field, including Ronald “Rolo” Henderson III, who now works as a land steward at TNC’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in Florida.
Rolo met Simon Haggerty at a GulfCorps chainsaw training in 2018 and a year later, they ended up together on a prescribed fire crew in Alabama. During their downtime they foraged for mushrooms, prepared meals of wild game, and, after discovering a mutual connection to music, started making up tunes to pass the time. “Music is a major influence on our generation,” says Rolo, “so we thought that maybe more young people would want to know about what we do if we bring it to them on their dimension.” Rolo and Simon worked together on the lyrics and the instrumentals, with input from TNC’s Alabama land management technician, Levi Brown.
Their first collaboration is a rap about fire in the longleaf pine ecosystem: Conservation at its finest / Do our research / Always know the science / Before we go out in the field / Save endangered species / We are the shield! They continue to create and record nature-themed music together and hope to share it with more people to inspire conservation action among young people.