Genesis of a Requiem
October 21, 2022
The inspiration for creating M.E.VI (a requiem) came to me as I rode the commuter rail to work in downtown Boston in the late Fall of 2016. I was reading the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2016. The report introduced me to the concept of the Anthropocene. It reported the alarming development that human actions were pushing life on this planet towards a sixth mass extinction event in which wildlife populations had already declined by 58% since 1970! (The 2022 report subsequently reported “an average 69% decrease in the relative abundance of monitored wildlife populations around the world between 1970 and 2018.”)
At the time, I was working on a new song, Glacial Speed. I was inspired to write the song on the flight home from a family trip to Glacier National Park in Montana. But as I look back, the actual genesis of the project was more than 30 years earlier, in 1985.
Back in the 80’s, business was booming, corporate taxes were falling, and restrictions that kept the excesses and exploitations of corporations in check were being decimated. And the engine of this boom was fueled by fossil fuels.
But even then, there was widespread discussion and reporting about the concept of global warming. We had been hearing about it for years – the idea that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels was increasing the average global temperature. And my cynical, 20-year-old, snarky self wrote a song called Life’s a Gas in the Greenhouse that poked a stick at corporate greed, and the Republican party that was, at the time, considered the party of business.
The song remained in my head with the lyrics tucked precariously away on a folded piece of paper in the top drawer of my dresser for decades. As I saw that piece of paper periodically, I would make myself revive the melody in my head and review ideas for the arrangement to keep it alive and – hopefully – prevent me from forgetting it altogether. One day, I thought, I would get back to it.
That day came in 2015. At that point in my life, the kids were away in college, my wife and I had sold our house and we were living in an apartment complex in the Boston area. I had dabbled just enough in music over the years to keep me from forgetting about it entirely, and there was still this yearning to pursue being an artist that I have had since childhood. I did my research, purchased a hot-rod laptop, a midi keyboard controller, and my first Digital Audio Recording software. I dusted off my guitars. I set up in one of my closets and pulled out the one song I had that no one had heard – Life’s A Gas In The Greenhouse. It’s the version you hear on the album, professionally remastered for digital release.
Of course, the amazing thing was that the message was just as relevant in 2015 as it was in 1985. In fact, we had wasted those 30 years and were now far worse off than we were back then. We were no longer talking about a distant future in which life might be challenging or even endangered, we were talking about a few short decades in the future. And there were now previews of the suffering that would be endured if you looked at particularly vulnerable areas and ecosystems.
But as I read the WWF report, and considered what to do in the face of this catastrophe, the idea formed that I had two songs about climate change already, so why not create an entire album?
Well, here’s why not.
First, who wants to listen to a bunch of preachy songs, or whiny songs, or alarmist songs about climate change and the sixth mass extinction? Second, people had changed. Back in 1985, I could poke fun at my conservative friends, have a spirited discussion about politics, and then we could all go out to a bar for a beer and some nachos. Obviously, things have changed.
So how do you use a platform like an album to engage around an important topic like climate change and the sixth mass extinction? I decided I had to change my approach. In the past, all of my lyrics had a sort of clever, cynical style that kept emotions at arm’s length. They were meant to challenge, to prod. But what I thought the topic needed was an approach that didn’t try to convince with rational argument and clever turns of phrase. Positions were hardened and that approach would never work. Instead, what was needed was an approach that appealed to compassion and empathy. Suggest a thought experiment and then take the listener on a musical journey to explore “what if?”
Honestly, I never expected the journey that resulted. I created the outline of the album and the songs that would comprise it. I drafted the lyrics. I upgraded my equipment and my studio. And then I set out to compose the music and record the tracks. Some of the tracks turned out as I intended. But many of them took on lives of their own, driven by the emotions of the song, the voice of the instruments, and the urgency of the topic.
I hope you appreciate M.E. VI (a requiem), its message, its music, and the hundreds of hours that went into its production – hours that were in addition to my full-time job. It really has been my passion project for several years, and I am happy to finally be in a position to present it to the public.
I hope that you consider purchasing M.E. VI (a requiem) if you find it moves something inside of you. I hope that you tell your friends, family and colleagues about it, and that you urge them also to support the project. (It’s the only way I’ll be able to afford to do a follow-up!)
But most importantly, I just hope that you find that it moves something inside of you. If you are involved in the movement, I hope that it inspires and fortifies you. If you’ve been on the fence about getting involved, I hope maybe it motivates you to jump down off the fence. And if you’re solidly against everything I stand for, I hope you will at least listen once (you can do that for free or on your favorite streaming service), and at least consider what is moving and motivating others who care deeply about the topic.