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As glaciers literally crumble around him, a pianist plays an elegy for the Arctic

It works pretty well as an elegy for everything else, too.

An elegy for everything.

Back in June, as part of an advocacy campaign aimed at protecting the Arctic Ocean from oil and gas extraction, Greenpeace sent its ship Arctic Sunrise northward with some unusual cargo.

The ship carried renowned pianist Ludovico Einaudi, a grand piano, and a floating wooden platform made up to look like a glacier.

They put the platform in the water next to the Wahlenbergbreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway. They put the piano on the platform. And there, Einaudi played a short original composition: “Elegy for the Arctic.”

The video is incredibly affecting. The look on Einaudi’s face, the cracking and crumbling ice around him, and the beautiful, haunting music — it really does feel like an elegy.

The performance was timed for the annual meeting of OSPAR, the international body meant to protect the Northeast Atlantic. But now, months later, it has only gained power. Given recent events, it’s hard not to experience it as an elegy for ... well, everything. American democracy. The world’s chances of stopping climate change. The late, lamented “arc of history.” All of it.

I’m not gonna lie: I teared up. If you need a little emotional release after this abysmal disaster of a year, I recommend it.


Addendum: This month, President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that they were putting their countries’ respective portions of the Arctic Ocean off limits to oil and gas extraction. Obama claims the order will withstand legal scrutiny and will be impossible for subsequent presidents to reverse. We shall see.

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