PRESS RELEASE published on 04 Jun 2020

Over 30 EBU radio channels mark UNESCO World Environment Day with nature-inspired works by Tan Dun and Beethoven

The EBU is marking the impact of the environment and nature on music, with a range of initiatives to tie-in with UNESCO World Environment Day on Friday 5 June. One of the highlights will be the premiere of a re-versioned work - Prayer and Blessing - by world-renowned composer and conductor, Tan Dun

The programme will focus on both the elevation and destruction of nature by humanity - and has resonance in the context of COVID-19, where the positive effect of nature and music on mental and physical health has had renewed focus. 

Tan Dun’s re-versioning of Prayer and Blessing is a response to the Coronavirus pandemic and will have its first-ever broadcast performance on 5 June, interpreted by members of the WDR Symphony Orchestra and percussionists from Vienna, among them Martin Grubinger.

Tan Dun is a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in the fields of water and intercultural dialogue in China and worldwide. He said: "Harmony in life and harmony in music both need a delicate balance. To me, all life in our world is one. We must protect this balance, protect our earth, and, thus, ourselves. This is a special time in our history and, as the world changes around us, moments like these where we are able to come together for one cause is incredibly important. I am so proud of the musicians and the team that are making this broadcast possible. We must remember that nature also has a voice, and who best to help our earth speak but the universal language of music!"

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General, UNESCO said, “We must now fundamentally rethink our relationship with the living world, with natural ecosystems and biodiversity. Together we must construct a new pact with nature. This is an immense work in progress, and one where UNESCO is already laying the foundations."

Other works in the programme include Tan Dun’s percussion concerto The Tears of Nature (2012) - representing the colour of nature’s thunder, passion and energy - especially written for percussionist Martin Grubinger - about which Tan Dun said: “Nature is the only suitable illustrator for the richness of percussion sounds and instruments,” and a chamber music version of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony (the Pastoral Symphony) - a work which highlights a time when people and nature were not in conflict. 

The music programme originated from EBU Member WDR3 in Germany and, so far, 34 public service radio stations from 29 countries are signed up to air all or part of the programme on or around 5 June.

These music works are examples of music and solidarity initiatives facilitated by the EBU, at a time when concert and festival programmes for summer 2020 have been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Jean Philip De Tender, Media Director, EBU, said: “The positive impact of music and nature on mental and physical health is well-documented and, in these times of restricted movement, this is particularly valid. When the solace of music is needed more than ever, the world’s cultural programmes have been decimated. But audiences can still access great live-recorded music via public service radio and we can support those artists and wider cultural organizations who, without these recordings, might struggle to get a hearing at all.” 

For further inspiration, the EBU has invited influential figures with a link to the environment to share their own playlists that feature messages about the natural world. 

Jean-Michel Jarre, the pioneer of electronic music, has Grieg’s Peer Gynt at the top of his playlist, citing the purity of the northern landscapes as tribute to Scandinavia’s relationship with the environment. See the other works and songs that made his list.

Jarre said, “How can artists impact climate care? They can have an impact on protecting the climate through their artistic creation. They can act as whistle blowers. Through my music, I consider myself an environmental activist. We can also have an influence through our concerts at a venue which, for one reason or another, serves to spotlight an ecological issue…Why is World Environment Day so important? To remind us that all the other days when we don’t talk about it must be taken into account, if we want our children to outlive us.” Access his video message in full below.

Renowned countertenor, Philippe Jaroussky, also shares his playlist which includes an eclectic mix of artists, including Claude Debussy, Ella Fitzgerald and Sting. Philippe Jaroussky said: “Sting was one of the first artists to campaign for the protection of the Amazon forest. He has shown to what extent we artists can help change mentalities more quickly. For me, this makes him an exemplary artist. I have selected his song – Fragile – for its refrain: ‘On and on the rain will fall, like tears from a star. On and on the rain will say, how fragile we are’.”

UNESCO's Director-General, Audrey Azoulay has provided a playlist that combines Marvin Gaye and David Bowie with Julio Iglesias and Cucalambe Ensemble from Cuba.

One of the tenets of public service media (PSM) is the commitment to serve the diverse tastes of all audiences, mainstream or not. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the EBU and public service radio channels have collaborated to create impactful joint events, including three contrasting projects: the Europe-wide mass singing of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, an idea of Dutch Member, NPO 3FM, that was taken up by 110 radio stations. BBC Radio 3’s eight-hour broadcast of Max Richter’s Sleep, broadcast by 21 stations, brought calm and solace to relieve anxiety and fear. And BBC Radio 1’s reprisal of Europe’s Biggest Dance Show was a seven-hour epic dance night – reaching audiences in seven countries via eight public service radio stations. 

In support of the wider arts industry, PSM radio is offering a lifeline of archive recordings from cancelled festivals and has invited the events’ artistic directors to curate the choices. 

The EBU has also worked with Members to extend the rights of more than 500 concerts, including an offer from BBC Radio 3’s own orchestral archives of 282 individual works. Also on offer are those live concerts recorded without an audience – including a series of 20 concerts by BBC Radio 3 from the Wigmore Hall in London.

De Tender added, “PSM radio is one of the most trusted mediums in Europe. We will continue to develop our strategies and how we implement them, as situations and audience needs evolve, ensuring greater access to recorded content for audiences worldwide in these challenging times.”

Find out which public service radio stations will be broadcasting the special Tan Dun and Beethoven programme.
Learn more about the EBU Music Unit through its Facebook page.



Contact detail

Jo Waters
Senior Communications Officer

+41 22 717 2501