An Ocean Symphony

The wonderful thing about writing this blog is that it is connecting me to the most marvellous people. This month, via the writer and local historian Miranda Morris, who lives in Tasmania, I’ve been talking to Sue Anderson, who coordinates the Lynchpin Arts-Ocean Science Scholarship program at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies in Tasmania. Lynchpin seeks to convey important Ocean science to the community in new ways, by harnessing the communicating power of the arts. ( Sue may be on the opposite side of the planet, but we are connected by the Oceans that flow between us. The Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of Scotland, which I write about in my forthcoming novel The Precious Sea, may literally be a world away from the Southern Ocean but the world’s Oceans are essential to supporting life and are affected by climate change.

Of the carbon emitted by the burning of fossil fuels, about 30% has been absorbed by the Ocean making it more acidic.

Of the extra heat that’s been generated and stored by the Earth’s systems in the last 50 years, about 90% is in the Ocean.

When we talk about global warming we’re really talking about Ocean warming.

Dr Steve Rintoul, Research Team Leader, Oceans and Atmospheric Flagship, CSIRO, Hobart (Online material:

Not only is sea ice melting faster than at any time in human history – impacting circulation flows, increasing sea levels and producing a thicker layer of warm surface water which is unable to hold the same amount of dissolved oxygen as colder water – but the corrosive nature of this more acidic water is triggering metabolic changes in sea creatures and leaching calcium carbonate from shells and skeletons, favouring the spread of jellyfish and jelly-like creatures.

ex Oceano 1

Detail 1: CD brochure image © Michaye Boulter, oil on canvas, 2013; Sue Anderson, works on paper, 2008. Digital design: Jenny Manners, Sarah Owen Designs.

Sue says: it is wonderful to meet others through the power of the internet and to exchange ideas and arts responses of different kinds.  Thanks to Rosemary for the opportunity to explain something of this adventure in sound.

the Ocean sustains life 

it connects all things 

it is the thread that binds the web of life together

Robert Johnston, PhD Candidate 2013 IMAS

This simple, almost poetic set of phrases from one of the scientists who worked on the science score to which composer Matthew Dewey responded, to me encapsulates the story of the Ocean – something of which most of us are mostly unaware. In terms of rationale for the symphonic venture, we know that music has the power not only to move us but also has the capacity to create a hinge or pivot between the world of the senses and the intellect. We offer this music in the hope that it may speak to the deeper feelings and emotions that arise as we respond to both the wonder of the ocean, as support for all life, and the growing understanding of the impacts of climate change on Ocean physics and chemistry. The work brings together different disciplines and understandings in support of the reputable science of climate change as it applies to the Ocean; the arts and science working in collaboration to present a story of significance to us all – but in a new way; in sonic form.

The symphony is dedicated to those whose lives are given to Ocean science. We invite you to find the On-line CD booklet available at the ex Oceano website where you can also find the full science score to which the composer responded; a couple of short film promotions at the site describe the work further;  and you can find links to the profiles of the scientists involved in this collaboration.

We offer ex Oceano as a contribution towards a greater understanding of the Ocean as the life-blood of the planet.  On a personal level, we hope people may find inspiration from the symphony to support their continued engagement with the complex issues of climate change. Lynchpin has links to the Living Data Program at the University of Technology, Sydney,  led by Dr Lisa Roberts, ( Check out the Evolving Conversations exhibition which brought together artists from a range of countries, working in a range of media, collaborating with science to make climate change visible and climate science accessible.

ex Oceano 2

Detail 2: CD brochure image © Commitmentthe term means the commitment of the Earth now to paths of change that will be unavoidable and unstoppable in the future.  JEN Veron, (2008), former Chief Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, ESF LESC/EuroClimate Strategic Workshop: Impacts of Ocean Acidification. Michaye Boulter, oil on canvas, 2013; Sue Anderson, works on paper, 2008. Digital design: Jenny Manners, Sarah Owen Designs.

ex Oceano

we are from the Ocean ~ the Ocean sustains us

Matthew Dewey Symphony No. 2, 2013

Czech National Symphony Orchestra

This is a fantastic piece of work that was born out of the collaboration of different disciplines moving toward one another to express the vital role of the ocean in supporting all life. I was bowled over when I listened to it. The first two movements express the wonder and the voice of the Ocean — first its power and mighty currents; the second brings to life the vast biomass of phytoplankton which form the base of the food chain, act as carbon sinks and produce every second breath we take. The symphony changes perspective in the third and fourth movements to take the human view, charged with emotion, as it explores the concepts of love and loss, how – as the composer says – we might ‘lose what we cannot imagine being without’.

Ultimately, the symphony leaves us with the question: what will our response be to the questions of human induced climate change?


You can see the ‘Making of a Symphony’ video at: <>

ex Oceano is available at iTunes, cdbaby and other digital distributors

You can see Miranda Morris at


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