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what is environmental music


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What is environmental music? Its either one of two things:

  1. Music that contains lyrics focused on environmental issues
  2. Music inspired by Mother Nature

Both are regularly used in projects that focus on the living world – productions such as nature documentariesfactual climate change podcasts, environmental advertstravel vlogs and protest-focused TV shows

To help you get a better understanding of environmental music, were taking a look at various environmental songs, from environmental country-pop tracks to environmental hip hop jams.

But first, well be answering some of the most popular questions surrounding the genre.

What Is the Relationship Between Music and the Environment?

Music dates back to the prehistoric Palaeolithic Age (aka the Old Stone Age) – one of the oldest instruments found is a bird bone flute, said to be around 35,000-40,000 years old.

Since music has been an intrinsic part of the human experience for so long, many believe that music and nature share a connection so deep that its impossible to comprehend.

What inspired the early music-makers? Nature, of course. From the sounds of the water flowing through the streams to the sounds of birds chirping in the trees, the sounds of Mother Nature and manmade music were once one and the same. 

Over the last few decades – as weve become increasingly knowledgeable about the state of our planet and the damage were causing  – the environment has been a popular topic for singers and rappers to focus on.

Through music, artists are able to raise awareness about environmental issues and inspire listeners to make eco-friendly decisions moving forward.

Heres hoping that music can save the very thing that inspired it in the first place. 

what is environmental music

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What Does Ambient Music Sound Like?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, Ambient music is a type of music, often without a tune or beat, that is intended to make people relax or create a particular mood”.

In other words, its music that creates an atmosphere.

And what has this got to do with environmental music? Music inspired by nature comes with its own aura – it builds an idyllic world around the listener.

What Music Styles Use Recorded Sounds From the Environment?

There are so many different songs that use recorded sounds from the environment, from R&B hits to tracks created especially for meditation.

And since millions live in crowded towns and cities that feel worlds away from the natural world, many rely on music to whisk them away from their concrete jungles. 

Environmental Music Artists From Different Genres

Now that we've gone over some enviromental music FAQ's, let's delve into the wonderful world of enviromental music artists. 

Lightning and Thunder (ft. John Legend) – Jhené Aiko (2020)

Lightning and Thunder (ft. John Legend)’ by Jhené Aiko – a song from the artistR&B Grammy-nominated album Chilombo – is about two lovers who have parted ways, yet still have feelings for one another.

To honour the song's concept, Aiko kicks off 'Lightning and Thunder' with storm sounds, evoking in listeners the same comforting feeling you get when you’re safe indoors during a storm.

Im Your Captain/Closer To Home’ – Grand Funk Railroad (1970)

In 1970, American rock band Grand Funk Railroad debuted the 10-minute track Closer to Home (Im Your Captain).

Just before the song’s halfway mark – at 4 minutes 23 seconds, to be precise – the band breaks things up with a peaceful moment that evokes an image in one's mind of birds tweeting by a river, or perhaps even a waterfall.

It’s this unexpected shift from rock 'n' roll to utopian paradise that makes the track so memorable.

Evermore – Taylor Swift (2020)

Country-pop star Taylor Swift returned to her pared-back roots in 2020 when she released Evermore, an album co-produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner.

In the records titular song featuring Bon Iver, listeners are taken to the peaceful woodlands where Swift finds herself on the album cover.

A slow, gentle piano is paired with the sweet sounds of birds chirping to give the thoughtful track a rustic folky feel. 

Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) – Marvin Gaye (1971)

Marvin Gaye was a remarkable man who used his voice to tackle a range of issues, from social issues to environmental issues.

In 1971, he released Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), a soulful song that asked listeners to question what was happening to the beautiful world around them.

Within just over three minutes, Gaye provides food for thought by pointing out issues on land, in the air and out at sea. 

'Prelude' - Kate Bush (2005)

Alt-Indie artist Kate Bush has always been in touch with nature.

At the age of 20, she was dancing around fields singing Wuthering Heights; at 47, she released Aerial, a double album that took planet Earth as its muse.

The most obvious example of Bush seeking inspiration from the environment in Aerial is during Prelude’, which encapsulates the experience of exploring a forest with its bird sounds, sparkling piano and soft strings.

Earth – Lil Dicky (2019)

In 2019, Lil Dicky teamed up with 30 noteworthy stars – from Justin Bieber to Ariana Grande to Snoop Dogg – to produce a charity single titled Earth

The tune reminds the listener that we all love our planet, thus, we should look after it as best we can. In 12 months, the rapper raised around $800,000; he split the money and donated it to six different environmental charities. 

Blackbird’ – The Beatles

Back in 1968, trailblazing rock 'n' rollers The Beatles debuted Blackbird’ as part of their eponymous ninth album, AKA The White Album.

The pastoral track sounds like an idyllic spring evening: delicate vocals provided by Paul McCartney are layered over the sounds of steady percussion, comforting strings and birds singing.

It asks the listener to run away from their troubles to take time to reflect.

Bottom of the Ocean – Miley Cyrus (2008)

Miley Cyrus’ early work is often overlooked, or passed off as disposable.

However, true fans know that one of her best tracks comes from 2008 album Breakout. Entitled Bottom of the Ocean, the breakup song compares the experience of losing a loved one forever to losing something that falls to the bottom of the ocean.

Aptly, a euphoric beat is combined with the sounds of far-flung seagulls and slow-paced vocals from Cyrus to make for a track that has an oceanic vibe from beginning to end.

Earth Song – Michael Jackson (1995)

Environmental music doesnt get much more iconic than Michael Jacksons Earth Song.

In 1995, the music icon released the compelling track, accompanied by a music video directed by nature photographer Nick Brandt; as soon it debuted, the song hit number one in the UK Singles Chart and managed to stay at the top for six weeks.

Its safe to say the King of Pop did his best to raise awareness about environmental issues – unfortunately, not much has changed since the anthem was released. 

New World Water – Mos Def (1999)

Hip hop legend Mos Def gave his fans something to think about in 1999 when he released his debut studio album Black on Both Sides, featuring the environmental song New World Water.

Within the Psycho Les-produced track, the Brooklyn-born musician highlights the issues with the water America is consuming: “Used to have minerals and zinc in it (New World Water), Now they say it got lead and stink in it (New World Water),” he raps.

Hip hop always has been, and always will be, a genre that challenges conventions. 

Discover Our Playlists

All environmental music-ed out? Check out our playlists, featuring every genre of music imaginable. 

Visit our musical styles page to find a slew of playlists organised by genre. Here, you can discover classic genre playlists such as R&B and indie rock, as well as more specialist sounds including acid jazz and J-pop.

Over on our production genre page, you’ll find playlists themed around specific projects. Examples include daytime TV playlistsnews and current affairs playlists and sitcom playlists.

Need Music for Your Project?

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