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A photograph of composer Erland Cooper looking downwards, taken by photographer Alex Kozobolis
Erland Cooper, photographed by Alex Kozobolis

Does music play a role in fostering individuals’ and groups’ environmental values and behaviours? Can it help to encourage people to think and care more about the natural world?

Research into music and the natural environment has tended to focus on the direct environmental impacts of musicking or the representation of the natural world in particular musical works. As a result, the work done in the world by music that is understood as being ‘about’ the natural world, about the environment, or climate change and crisis remains under-researched. Our project aims to fill this research gap.

The project is specifically focused on how biospheric values—understood here as the set of values that serve to foster environmentally friendly behaviours—may be influenced by musical engagement. Funded by the UKRI’s Higher Education Innovation Funding programme, MusEnv aims to increase knowledge about how contemporary popular music contributes to biospheric values and environmental attitudes and behaviours.

During the project's initial stages (2023–24), we are focusing on two current musical projects by the Scottish composer Erland Cooper, whose music sits at the intersection of popular and classical idioms: Folded Landscapes (2023) and Carve the Runes (2024).

The central research question of the project is: How, and in what ways, does engagement with Erland Cooper’s recent musical projects impact listeners’ environmental thinking?

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