October 3, 2008

Adventures in a Cold Climate

How do you write a song about climate change? The charity Cape Farewell has sent an intrepid group of musicians to the Arctic in the hope of inspiring some ecologically minded melodies. Here are their first impressions

Martha Wainwright


"We're just pulling out of Ilullisat harbour. It's around 3pm. I'm feeling a bit rough from last night at Murphy's Bar, where the local band played for us and the talent of Cape Farewell returned the favour. This was our 'night out' and it was 'out' there in a great way.

"Ilullisat is a settlement in Disko Bay and it's a pretty groovy town. With this group of great people we are leaving an impression as well as an imprint wherever we go and that's the interesting part. Being able to sing and disco-dance in Disko Bay with some townsfolk of a Greenland village is really part of how things are, and will become more of, in this crazy technology-filled and fast- moving world. With travel and the ability to go most places there is a real change in how we see ourselves in the world. Change is really in the air, politically and socially as well as literally. It's exciting and it's something really worth being involved in. This is the stuff that can push us into real evolution of mind and how we exist.

"I have noticed here in the last couple of days that there is a real quality issue in our consumption of life and the goods we sell to ourselves. I'm lucky because I was invited here and I would never have questioned coming, despite emitting carbon by doing so. It was just too great a thing not to do. Personally I feel as though the incredible and moving time that I have had on this boat so far will help me to lead a better life. I know that sounds cheesy but I think it's true. Not only has it made my life better because of the great things I've seen but also because I am learning things that would be good to incorporate into my life when I'm not travelling through the Arctic on a Russian vessel.

"Never have I seen so many adults so happy at the same time. There were shouts of laughter and excitement when a humpback revealed itself to us without us even asking. The icebergs are ridiculously incredible.

"Not only did we totally 'do' the great town of Ilullisat but we walked on and saw the most beautiful and intense part of the planet. It's great to be here and I don't think I will fully grasp the benefit for a while."

Jonathan Dove


"On our fourth day aboard the Grigoriy Mikheev, we wake among icebergs. A mysterious, magical kingdom: distant grey bergs are ghostly portals to the land of the dead, while near us the ice gives off an eerie blue light. Two whales lead us for a while. We disembark for several hours in a tranquil bay on the edge of the Ilullisat glacier. Amid rock and ice, it's touching to have signs of life - grasses, birdsong, and bilberries underfoot creating bloodstains in the snow.

"It doesn't seem as if anything's amiss, but our Inuit guides, Ludwig and Karen, tell us that 10 years ago, the glacier front was 15km nearer. Disko Bay has stopped freezing regularly, so Ludwig can no longer dog-sled from here to his home town, Ummannaq, along the sea-ice.

"Perhaps a composer should try to voice our grief for what we are losing, for what we have done to our planet; but I'd like to find a more positive role, if I can. I don't want to tell people what they already know, or write music to say, 'see how deeply I feel for the loss of the polar ice-cap'."



"I am pleased to announce that I have finally arrived at Disko Bay, and I am totally shell-shocked.In the past 36 hours I've travelled from Moscow to the Arctic, with a quick stop-off for a performance at Wembley Arena. Somehow I feel quite surprised to have actually arrived.

"I spent last week trying not to visualise what the Arctic would be like, as nothing ever turns out to be how you pictured it. This seems to have left me a little unprepared for: a) seeing my first giant iceberg (the size of a small bus-station) and: b) being introduced to Jarvis Cocker, KT Tunstall and Laurie Anderson, all within 10 minutes. Now it's definitely time for a peppermint-tea break.

"So I'm writing this first diary entry with a sense of sleep- deprived self-detachment, not really taking in what is happening. Being with all these inspired people seems to have filled my head with a zillion ideas for musical endeavours that could easily save the world. But I think the sea is going to rock me to sleep before they ever make it out of my dizzy mind."

(c) 2008 Independent, The; London (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.