Why is there a music section in a website for a photography show? One of the important themes of the Earth Now exhibition is how artists contribute to our awareness and understanding of contemporary issues. In the show, we explore the methods and strategies that photographers are using to communicate, and we encourage you to carry that further to see how different types of art can affect audiences and reach individuals. We especially invite you to find a way to use your own talents, whatever they may be, to express yourself and connect with people about issues of concern. Take a look at some of the music lists and links below, send us your suggestions, or make a picture, compose a song, write a letter to the editor, organize a meeting. Use your abilities and passions to create the world you want to inhabit!

Enviro-Roots Mix from exhibition curator Katherine Ware:

  • Dry River, performed by James McMurtry
  • After the Fall, by Terry Allen
  • Coal Minin’ Man, performed by Ricky Skaggs & Ancient Tones
  • The River in Reverse, by Elvis Costello
  • Only So Much Oil in the Ground, by Tower of Power
  • Give Us Rain, performed by Ricky Skaggs & Ancient Tones
  • Don’t Go Near the Water, by Johnny Cash
  • Paradise, by John Prine
  • My Dirty Stream, by Pete Seeger
  • Pollution, by Tom Lehrer
  • Good Planets are Hard to Find, by Steve Forbert
  • Broken Promise Land, by Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint

Rockin’ Social Action Mix from Gary Newgent

  • Mercy Mercy Me, Marvin Gaye
  • Nature’s Way, by Spirit
  • Don’t Go Near the Water, by The Beach Boys
  • What About Me, by Quicksilver Messenger
  • Don’t Kill the Whale, by Yes
  • Traffic Jam, by James Taylor
  • My City Was Gone, by Pretenders
  • Rocky Mountain High, by John Denver
  • Big Yellow Taxi, by Joni Mitchell
  • Wond’ring Again, by Jethro Tull
  • Ecology Song, by Stephen Stills
  • Throwing Stones, by Grateful Dead
  • Where Do the Children Play, by Cat Stevens
  • Only a Dream, by Adrian Belew

Set list from exhibition designer and musician Susan Hyde Holmes

  • “(Nothing But) Flowers,” Talking Heads, From the album Naked (Sire, 1988)
  • “Big Yellow Taxi,” Joni Mitchell, From the album Ladies of the Canyon (Reprise, 1970)
  • “Volcanic Wind,” Boris McCutcheon, From the album Cactusman Versus the Blue Demon (Frogville, 2005)
  • “New Pollution,” Beck, From the album Odelay (DGC, 1996)

Photographer Ellen Rennard suggests:

  • Winds of Warning, didgeridoo music by Adam Plack and Johnny (White Ant) Soames


  • Ansel Adams was planning to become a concert pianist before changing course and dedicating himself to photography. He later talked about photography in musical terms, equating the photographic negative with a musical score and the photographic print with a performance. In the spring of 2009, jazz pianist Dave Brubeck and his son Chris composed an orchestral work inspired by Adams’s photographs, titled “Ansel Adams: America.”  The National Public Radio Music website: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=102656153
  • Composer Evan Chambers wrote several short songs about rivers and encouraged residents of Michigan, where he lives, to sing them unexpectedly in public (whether on a bus, in an elevator, or at the playground) to remind people of the importance of rivers to our lives. Hear him sing two of these songs a capella: Everything Flows  |  Where Is the River
  • The Italian composer and sound artist Diego Stocco is known for using elements of nature and commonplace objects to make music. A particular tree he admired inspired him to collaborate with it to create “Music from a Tree.” Don’t miss the chance to see and hear the performance of this extraordinary piece and to read a short interview with Stocco: http://www.greenmuze.com/nature/trees/1437-making-music-with-trees.html
  • In 1996, musicians Amy Ray and Emily Saliers put together an album titled Honor to benefit the organization Honor the Earth. A variety of musicians contributed to the CD, which also included ready-to-mail political action cards. One of the songs, performed by Matthew Sweet, is called “A Day in the Life of a Tree,” written by Brian Wilson and Jack Rieley for the Beach Boys in 1971. Hear the Beach Boys version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipyieEOjkVU, and take a look at Earth Now artist Laurel Schultz’s photographs made from her imagined perspective of a tree in her series Arboreality: http://www.laurelschultz.com/Portfolio.cfm?nL=0&nS=0&nK=11333&i=145339#0
  • The French composer Olivier Messiaen wrote Quatuor pour la fin du temps, or Quartet for the End of Time, in 1941 while he was a prisoner of war. It was inspired by the biblical Book of Revelations and its notes evoke birdsong, an angel, and the abyss with a final redemptive ascent. Without its intended religious implications, the title is an ominous one. What music by that name would suit our present circumstances?
  • Sit down and buckle up for some interviews with truly mind-blowing musicians who are engaging with the natural world, conducted by Philip Blackburn for his radio series Music and Nature: A Natural History of Listening: http://musicandnature.publicradio.org/interviews/
  • On April 22, 2010, the U2 Tour Fans site posted a playlist of the rock band U2’s enviro-relevant songs in honor of Earth Day: http://www.u2tourfans.com/u2-daily-tour-news/2010/4/22/u2-earth-day-playlist.html
  • The American composer Charles Ives wrote “Thoreau,” a song for voice and piano, in 1915 to celebrate the writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau.