How Greenpeace Is Using Non-Static Music To Make Digital Activism More Engaging
While there are those who say that the era of musical protest is over, an agency of music hackers has been collaborating with Greenpeace to create interactive digital music as a means of protesting Shell's oil drilling in the arctic.
Guest Post by Bas Grasmayer
In recent years non-static music formats have really started taking off in the form of interactive albums, dynamic music-centric games, so-called ‘location aware’ albums, Native Instruments’ recently launched Stems, and many others. Now, an agency of music hackers called We Make Awesome Sh have applied it to activism. A new Greenpeace campaign called Requiem for Arctic Ice encourages people to participate in an online protest against Shell’s arctic drilling. It’s often been said that the era of protest music is over, but the guys and girls from We Make Awesome Sh have shown that in this day and age, even classical music works great as a medium for protest.
Being fascinated by the developments in the non-static music space, I had to ask them some questions.
How did the project come about?
Greenpeace approached us. They explained their concept for Requiem for Arctic Ice – A musical protest where they were working with composers and musicians to play a piece of music, written specifically for the purpose, outside Shell’s HQ in London everyday for a month as a protest against Shell hunting for oil and drilling in the Arctic. They asked us for any ideas about creating an interactive online component of the protest that allows supporters to contribute regardless of where they are or who they are.
Why did you choose a non-static music format?
We suggested that we turn the musical composition into an endless piece of music that’s created by online support and petition signatures. So that if you tweet, facebook, share the website or sign the petition you change the music and you keep the music playing. Greenpeace’s brief was to spread the word of the campaign and create a way for everyone to be involved. This way, regardless of your musical ability, or where you are or who you are – you can be a part of the process.
What are the advantages of non-static music over fixed / static songs?
The non-static, ever evolving piece of music is a demonstration of the protest. It shows the world that people are getting involved through music. Music is an incredibly emotive medium and your support can change that piece of music. It shows Shell that there are millions of people against what they’re doing – not just by telling them through words but by playing music.
It’s a form that everyone can be a part of. The composition doesn’t stop with the amazing musicians and composers. It’s a representation of people’s feelings.
Could you say something about how this was made? Did you use any publicly available algorithms? How many musicians did you collaborate with? How did that work?
We worked with Greenpeace and the composers and musicians who they reached out to on this piece. We were presented with this beautiful composition and then it was up to us to work with Dan Jeffries, the producer, to adapt the music dependent upon [aforementioned] factors. For example, if there are just a few people tweeting about it then there might just be one violin playing but if there are thousands of people tweeting there will be four or five violins. Each method of protest controls a different part of the music.
We created our own algorithm for this. It’s all our own creation from the way the music responds to the online support to the visuals which are also based off the public protest. It uses the new web audio APIs.
We’ve been beavering away in the batcave for weeks – fortunately the musical composition is stunning so we’ve had an amazing soundtrack to listen to whilst we worked and as it’s such an emotive piece it really helped us to ‘get in the zone’ so to speak.
Do you have tips for musicians & technologists who want to get involved with this type of project?
For this project, there is a sign up form at the bottom of the page – so if there are some budding musicians out there then scroll to the bottom and fill in the form to get the sheet music and to find out more about how to get involved.
For technologists/developers you don't need to know about making music. It’s about experimenting and tinkering with technology. There’s no magic way to do it, it’s all about having a play and seeing what works. Ask other people who have used this type of technology before and reach out to musicians too. Talking to people, experimenting yourself and asking for advice is the best way to do it.
See what the team has ‘beavered away in the batcave’ at and check out Requiem for Arctic Ice.
Bas Grasmayer is a music startup consultant, and former Product Lead of Zvooq, the leading music streaming service in Russia & CIS. He’s best known for his thesis The Answer is the Ecosystem: Marketing Music through Non-Linear Communication and has previously spoken at conferences such as Amsterdam Dance Event, European Lab, Midem and Sochi Winter Music Conference. Find out more at http://about.me/bas or follow @basgras