The Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi is best known for composing the themes to the film Black Swan and television serial Doctor Zhivago. Last month he travelled with the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise on the eve of an OSPAR Commission meeting which was to consider whether to grant the first protected area status for the Arctic in international waters.
Einaudi performed his own composition, Elegy for the Arctic, on a floating platform in the Arctic Ocean, against the backdrop of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier in the Svalbard archipelago. Somewhat ironically, the performance was made possible by the massive early retreat of sea ice due to the effects of climate change. This allowed for the construction of a 2.6 x 10 metre artificial iceberg, made from more than 300 triangles of wood and weighing nearly two tonnes. A grand piano was then placed on the platform.
Einaudi said “being here has been a great experience. I could see the purity and fragility of this area with my own eyes and interpret a song I wrote to be played upon the best stage in the world. It is important that we understand the importance of the Arctic, stop the process of destruction and protect it."
The OSPAR meeting saw the decision taken to establish a protected area in the Arctic Ocean equivalent in size to the United Kingdom, which should offer protection from oil drilling and overfishing. As one of the least protected areas on the planet, the Arctic Ocean is experiencing a continual loss of sea ice volume due to rising temperatures. Not only is its rich biodiversity at risk, the effects are harming the rest of the planet, having been linked to increasingly frequent extreme weather events in the Northern hemisphere, such as flooding, superstorms and droughts.