Soundscapes of climate change

Water Rhythms: Listening to Climate Change

              a project led by Michele Koppes and Susie Ibarra

Water rhythms is a story of climate change told through the phenomenology and embodied experience of listening to freshwater. It is the story about the dualism of water, the universal connector of nature and humans, that is both beautiful and fragile. It is an intergenerational story of the rapid change and depletion of our glaciers and freshwater sources worldwide. Glaciers and ice sheets are the world’s water towers, holding 99% of the freshwater on Earth. As glaciers worldwide shrink and disappear in response to climate change, these water rhythms are also shifting and fading from view.

We have been sonically mapping changes in glacier runoff from the source to the sink, from the glaciated mountains to the ocean, from some of the world’s most important water towers, including the Coast Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the Greenland Ice Sheet, and the Indian Himalayas. Through field recordings taken from both above and below the ice and the water,  including the sounds and music of the people who live along the waterways, we are listening to the sounds of climate change. We are listening to the stories the water is telling us about a world of increasing ecological precarity.

Humans are inextricably connected to the earth’s freshwater as a basic building block of life; the same rhythms of glacial meltwater that flow from the mountains to the sea flow through our bodies, our cultures, histories and our music.  In listening to the rhythms of these waters, we hear tempos that match the sweet spot at which many pieces of music from all over the world are created and played. They  also match our heartbeats at birth.  A world losing its flowing freshwater is hence a world losing its music, its culture and its humanity.

We invite you into an immersive, embodied experience of listening to the story of Water Rhythms from mountains near and far. Through this invitation, we hope you will choose to engage in a deeper understanding of the ways in which we are all intertwined by freshwater, its beauty and its fragility. 

Read more about water rhythms on our StoryMaps and some of our collaborations with Sonic Matter openlab

Water Rhythms: Listening to climate change, a podcast exploration of the stories of ice and water as they respond to climate change, was commissioned by Counterflows At Home, a festival of arts of music based in Glasgow, Scotland, and launched April 12, 2021:

Water Rhythms: Listening to climate change, a sonic waterfall installation commissioned by the Fine Acts Foundation and TED  to bring awareness to TED Countdown, was launched on 10.10.2020 at Jack Poole Plaza in downtown Vancouver, BC and at Innisfree Gardens in Millbrook, NY:

More information about the installation piece can be found at Fine Acts.

Excerpts from our collection of  Water rhythms in the Himalayas (click on the pin in StoryMaps to hear the audio recordings)


Excerpts  of Water rhythms in Greenland:


Excerts of Water Rhythms in the Pacific Northwest:

Water Rhythms in the BC Coast Mountains