Friday, August 8, 2008

Andrew Revkin's NYTimes Blog

‘Good Planets Are Hard to Find’
By Andrew C. Revkin, August 8, 2008

Here’s a summertime post about music, people, and the planet — lyrical and instrumental compositions that connect you with the “pale blue dot” or inspire you to live a life attuned, at least a little, to nature’s cycles. Several Dot Earthers recently included me in an email exchange about their favorite music along these lines, and my goal here is to take this conversation public. What music connects you to this sphere (and its nonhuman inhabitants)?

Some of my choices are below, along with some discussed by the emailers who started this, including Jeff Huggins, Mike Roddy and Elizabeth Tjader. As this music discussion was unfolding, out of the blue I received an email from Steve Forbert, commending the blog and offering up a couple of his songs for use here. One is “Good Planets Are Hard to Find,” which he wrote in 1996. I asked him for a quick response on music that links him to nature, and he popped back with an interesting initial combo: Debussy’s “Snowflakes are Dancing” and the end of “Black Magic Woman” by Santana. Here’s “Good Planets are Hard to Find”:

As some of you may know, my first passion besides science, long before I stumbled into journalism, was music. At 17, I bought a shattered 1949 Gibson Southern Jumbo for $30 (it really looked like the residue of a bar fight; actually the same model Steve is playing in the photo!). I rebuilt it, and I’ve been strumming and songwriting ever since in spare moments. (You can see me playing with the rest of Uncle Wade, the rustic-rootsy band I’m in, on the deck of the Hudson River sloop Clearwater.) For the most part, my own music and the environment don’t overlap, with a few exceptions — a song I wrote about hillside development and floods in the Rockies and another, Liberated Carbon, about this wacky fossil-fueled era.

But for now, I’m focusing on others’ compositions. My favorites? Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, 4th movement. And of course Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” From jazz, I still have my worn Chick Corea/Gary Burton LP of “Crystal Silence” (this is not that version; to me the vibraphone is what really does it). In the folk realm, I’ve always enjoyed Tom Paxton’s tune “Whose Garden Was This?,” which is a sobering thought experiment from the point of view of someone recalling that the world once had flowers, that birds really flew.

Much more at

No comments: