British composer writes sustainable symphony for Sweden

British composer writes sustainable symphony for Sweden


norman lebrecht

September 18, 2021

Message from the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra:

When London composer Colin Riley heard about the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra’s environmental work, he became enthused. The climate-conscious composer realized that he wanted to be on the train. 

He says: ”I received an invitation and since I have long avoided traveling by air, I booked a train ticket from London to Helsingborg.’

The journey went through five different countries. ‘I saw the landscape change outside the train window and heard the languages ​​and voices inside the cabin change. It was a wonderful feeling to be immersed in the history that northern Europe shares. It felt invigorating.

He wrote the symphonic work Earth Voices during the corona summer of 2020.  ‘Corona has made many of us slow down and think about our everyday lives. And suddenly there were more people who went and thought about what I had been thinking about for so long. Greta Thunberg has put Sweden on the world map and I also wanted to do something to open people’s eyes to the climate issue. But I’m not an “eco-warrior” and Earth Voices is not a particularly political or even preaching work. It is hopefully more durable than that.’



  • Pianofortissimo says:

    ‘Greta Thunberg has put Sweden on the world map…’

    No, this is wrong. Sweden has been there, I mean here, since the glacier melted after the ice age. This with the reservation that at that time no maps were drawn.

    • Novagerio says:

      Dag Hammarskjöld put Sweden on the map, if anybody in modern time. Yesterday was by the way the 60th anniversary of his death, having died under rather mysterious circumstances.

      Ok, there were also Anders Celsius, Alfred Nobel, Jussi Björling, Ingrid Bergman, and Anita Ekberg, Björn Borg and ABBA, if you want.
      I’m by far a climate denier, but all these silly sectarian “green-conscience”-people have unfortunately slept in history class.

  • Peter says:

    And so will the classical music world end up: In a spiritual cirkle jerk totally weird for anybody looking from outside.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Riley’s work relies heavily on text and marketing gestures to convey the link with Nature and Place. Also it is close to pop music, where words are also more important than the music.

    Writing ‘sustainable music’ is more difficult than that.

    What is the link between (serious) music and Nature? If it is true music, it bubbles-up from man’s nature: his subconscious, and the system through which its dynamics function, is part of the mathematical proportions of sound. Also, man’s inborn (natural) feeling for aesthetics plays a crucial role, and the way in which he transforms cultural concepts into a rounded-off work. So, the link is on a much deeper level than gestures and words.

    But all of this is something different from the quality of the result, Mr Riley may have written a beautiful piece for the orchestra in spite of his intentions. From his own description it seems that he travelled by train for the first time in his life, so at least that was a sustainable adventure.

  • LOL says:

    “It is hopefully more durable than that.” Yeah, don’t worry it’s not.

    Sounds like u wasted a lot of hours on the train.

  • caranome says:

    Oh puleease, spare us the virtue preening! Just write a good, listenable piece.

    • J Barcelo says:

      That’ right. Swedish composers like Atterberg, Stenhammer and Alfven wrote wonderful symphonies. Very life-affirming music.

  • Steve says:

    That is possibly the most boring thing I have ever read. It beats’ small earthquake in Peru,nobody hurt’

  • Gustavo says:

    Potential super-spreader voyages cross Europe