Nature has inspired countless pieces of music, from classical operas to rock and roll ballads. For many artists, experiencing nature isn’t just about seeing beautiful scenery; it may actually have a positive effect on their creativity, energy levels and productivity. Recent scientific studies have shown that outdoor experiences — even something as simple as walking through a public park — have an immediate and positive effect on the parts of the brain that stimulate creativity. According to an article published by the University of California at Berkeley, studies from around the globe have shown that experiences with nature reduce stress and fatigue while increasing creativity, generosity, kindness and a general sense of well being.
Maybe that’s why so many composers, musicians and choreographers have drawn inspiration from nature or infused nature into their work?
For example, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, probably one of the most talented composers to ever live, composed music in a variety of venues but apparently preferred a garden over all others because it best stimulated his creativity. Antonio Vivaldi, an Italian composer living in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, wrote an entire concerto called “The Four Seasons” which imitated the changes in weather, color and landscape he saw around him over the passage of a year. More recently, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Queen, Rush, Metallica and The Beach Boys have all used nature as recurring themes in their work.
Likewise, dance has always been closely associated with nature. Isadora Duncan, considered by many to be a pioneer in modern dance, intentionally drew her inspiration from nature and natural phenomenon. Duncan also admired the dance forms of early cultures such as the ancient Greeks, many of which were tied to the celebration of nature. Over the centuries, numerous ballets, stage musicals and other forms of dance have used nature in some way. And more are being created all the time.
In this section of the Oceanscape Network, we will feature different ways music and dance are inspired by and celebrate the natural world. Check back periodically as new features are added.
Sea Star Dance: Melding Music with Nature: How does a disease inspire a dance? Moved by the outbreak of sea star wasting disease that ravaged the Oregon Coast in 2015, educators and students at Lane Community College came up with a musical way to raise awareness about the plague.