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Robertson, Lisa: to tell it like it is. SSAATTBB

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With a text distilled from a selection of hard-hitting data relating to the climate emergency, Lisa Robertson’s to tell it like it is implores us all to listen to science and respond urgently in the face of impending global catastrophe. The score is a keenly heard vocal tour de force, inspired by the unique virtuosity and enthusiasm of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain’s 2019–2020 Fellows, and by the composer’s passionate commitment to the environment. Projecting effects of inexorably ticking clock time, of heartbeats and the song of the extinct Kauai ‘O’o bird against the facts of global warming conveyed in a pile-up of tensile melodic strands, to tell it like it is is a countdown to apocalypse or averted disaster – our choice.

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‘By the end of 2017, anthropogenic CO2 emissions since the pre-industrial period are estimated to have reduced the total carbon budget for 1.5°C by approximately 2200 ± 320 GtCO2. The associated remaining budget is being depleted by current emissions of 42 ± 3 GtCO2 per year.’

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, ‘Global Warming of 1.5°C’, Summary for Policymakers, section C 1.3, page 12, 2018

‘Around 50% of these emissions meanwhile can be attributed to the richest 10% of people around the world’

T Gore, ‘Extreme Carbon Inequality’, Oxfam Media Briefing, 2 December 2015

‘the human health benefits of increasing 21st-century CO2 reductions by 180 GtC, an amount that would shift a ‘standard’ 2°C scenario to 1.5°C … The decreased air pollution leads to 153 ± 43 million fewer premature deaths worldwide …’

D Shindell, G. Faluvegi, K. Seltzer and C. Shindell, ‘Quantified, localized health benefits of accelerated carbon dioxide emissions reductions’, Nature Climate Change, volume 8, pages 291–295, 2018

‘Every day, up to 150 species are lost. Every year, between 18,000 and 55,000 species become extinct. The cause: human activities.’

Ahmed Djoghlaf, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations Environment Programme. The International Day for Biological Diversity, 22 May 2007

‘It is an extraordinary achievement for the global oil industry to meet the needs of a 100mb/d market, but today we have …’

International Energy Agency Oil Market Report, October 2018

We are a generation instilled with eco-anxiety whose culture has been shaped by the burden of an inherited environmental crisis and the urgent responsibility to listen to the science, to the facts, and to take action. Scientific claims from reputable sources are presented in this piece along with evidence of human destruction of the recent past, heard in the upper voices’ imitation of the call of a bird, the Kauai ‘O’o, which has been extinct since 1989 due to human activity.

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Forty-two gigatons every year of CO2.
A hundred million barrels of oil every day.
One-point-five degrees C.
To stop at one-point-five would save a hundred fifty million lives.
Up to a hundred and fifty species extinct every day.
The richest ten percent in the world are emitting fifty percent.

Lisa Robertson
© Copyright 2021 Stainer & Bell Ltd


Notes underlaid with ‘[tick]’ and ‘[tock]’ indicate tongue clicks, with the former pitched higher than the latter. The relative pitches of both, and their dynamic level, should be as consistent as possible throughout, and between all voices. If singers are unable to click the tongue they may instead produce unvoiced plosions, sounding like ‘tih toh’ or ‘dih doh’; an attempt should be made to match the tongue clicks of other singers. If desired, two suitably pitched temple blocks or wood blocks may be added to support the tongue clicks.

Square noteheads denote chest thumps, where singers should form fists and beat their chests as loudly as is comfortable in order to imitate heartbeats. Grace notes should always be short and occur just before the beat. Glissandi should last for the full duration of the note to which they are attached.

The style of singing should not be overly dramatic or theatrical but simple, natural, and as if plainly stating the facts.

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