David Geffen Hall (Avery Fisher Hall),
The Brooklyn Philharmonic
Harold Rosenbaum, conductor
with the New York Virtuoso Singers and
Elizabeth Keuch, soprano
Marietta Simpson, mezzo soprano
John Aler, tenor
David Arnold, baritone
Emma Tahmizian, Judith Stillman, piano soloists
Anne Akiko Meyers, violin solo
Shanghai String Quartet
Chris Turner, harmonica
Gaian Variations is an oratorio that depicts Earth system science as one of the great revolutions in human thinking, yet also a direct outgrowth of the last two centuries of scientific development. There is little remaining dispute that James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis unleashed a vast revolution: as James Green, NASA's Director of Planetary Sciences, noted in 2010, "Dr. Lovelock and Dr. Margulis played a key role in the origins of what we now know as Earth system science." What Lovelock and Margulis preferred to called "Gaia" - the idea that our planet functions as a single self-regulating entity - remained highly controversial for decades, with prominent Neo-Darwinists like Richard Dawkins claiming that such self-regulation would be impossible and run counter to the laws of natural selection. In 2001 more than 1,000 scientists signed a Declaration under the aegis of the United Nations and four global bodies which states at its outset "The Earth System behaves as a single self-regulating system," largely ending debate about this core concept of Gaia. Even the most strident critic of Gaia theory, Toby Tyrrell, noted that this declaration highlights "the degree to which Gaia has been accepted by a large part of the scientific community."
This site contains over an hour of music from the oratorio Gaian Variations, and was made possible through a settlement agreement involving the the American Federation of Musicians, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and composer Nathan Currier. From eight years of litigation involving two linked cases, Currier v. Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra in New York State Supreme court, and Currier v. American Federation of Musicians et al in Federal court (New York southern district court), the current website is the end result. In each of the cases, initial rulings were favorable to Currier and led to settlement.
The Brooklyn Philharmonic premiered Gaian Variations at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall for Earth Day 2004, but stopped mid-performance claiming that they were going into overtime, even though they had performed less than two hours of their three hour contract.
In the settlement, Currier was given rights to use the recording of the Gaian Variations premiere for this website, and it contains edited excerpts of that recording comprising twenty six of the work's variations, totaling about seventy minutes of music.
With the work's texts linked to a series of pictorially-supported science pages helping introduce key concepts of Gaia theory to the layperson, the site is likely one of the larger educational projects supporting the science of Gaia online, with twenty one pages taken from James Lovelock's 1992 Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine, reprinted with kind permission of Gaia Books and the author.
New York Times music critic Allan Kozinn dubbed Gaian Variations "pseudoscientific." Pictured here is the score on display at the prestigious London Museum of Science, where it remained for a full year as part of their exhibition, Unlocking Lovelock, 2014-2015.