By Tiffany Whitfield

Living by the coast in Virginia has its benefits and its challenges, and climate change is affecting people in Hampton Roads and around the world. From frenetic weather patterns to stronger storms off the coast, flooding is becoming increasingly problematic for communities. A new musical performance at ODU will address these issues in a creative way. 

Tying into the University’s Annual Campus Theme of “Blue Connections,” the ODU Symphony Orchestra will perform a series of pieces that explore water and rising seas at 3 p.m. Oct. 1 at the University Theatre. The concert – also called “Blue Connections” – will include breaks for ODU faculty to discuss research related to coastal resilience and ways for the community to get involved in efforts to address sea level rise and flooding.  

At the heart of the concert is an electroacoustic piece called “Ice Becomes Water” by guest-composer Judith Shatin that was inspired by the sound of melting glaciers.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the potential of music as a way of bringing people together to confront issues that matter to today’s society,” said Paul Kim, associate professor in the Diehn School of Music and director of the ODU Symphony Orchestra.  “When I came across my former music mentor’s orchestral composition ‘Ice Becomes Water,’ I saw an opportunity for musicians to make an impact on this issue, raising awareness about the challenges our community faces from a changing climate.”

The orchestra will also perform Duke Ellington’s jazzy “River Suite” and other pieces by Percy Grainger and Niels Gade.

Shatin worked with glaciologist Oskar Glowacki to develop her composition. Glowaki is researching these giant blocks of ice with underwater microphones called hydrophones, and he shared the recordings of the glacier sounds with Shatin.

“People might be surprised that I would be drawn to the sounds of a glacier, but the sounds of the world are fascinating,” Shatin said. “I’m hoping that it will speak to people in a visceral kind of way.”

Shatin, who is from Charlottesville, has been composing music for 50 years and has written other compositions about nature across Virginia.

“One of my goals has been to combine the world of acoustic music and new technologies to explore our world,” she said.

Faculty from ODU’s Departments of Ocean & Earth Sciences and Political Science and Geography, including professors Peter Sedwick, Margaret Mulholland and Tom Allen, will speak about current research during the concert. Also, professors and representatives from ODU’s Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (ICAR) will share how citizens can get more involved with coastal resilience projects.

“This concert is a celebration of our coastal community, with all of the music associated in some way with water – water that is central to our well-being as a national hub for commerce, business and defense,” Kim said. “But it is also a call to action: to be clear-eyed about the risks that climate change can bring, to support research that allows us to assess risk better and to be proactive in developing practical mitigation strategies.”

To learn more about the concert or to purchase tickets, visit ODU Arts Tix.