The sound of forest music | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 16.06.2015
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The sound of forest music

Swedish band John Moose care deeply about nature and want their listeners to care too. So much so that they released their debut album for free - for those who listen to it in the forest.

Global Ideas: How did you come up with the novel idea for your debut album - do you have a particular connection to forests?

John Moose: Our debut album is largely about human ambivalence between nature and civilization. We ask ourselves questions about how and where we want to live our lives, as well as more philosophical issues about what nature is - and wheter we can really distinguish it from civilization and from us.

The main character of the album - our alter-ego #link: Moose# - escapes into the woods to become one with nature. But during his journey, an anxiety stronger than any he has known before, grows inside him. He becomes obsessed. He violates nature and believes he owns everything that crosses his path. He gives up and is nurtured by the earth he has tortured. It seals his body and shatters his dream.

The app is an interactive extension of the ideas and feelings we want to share with the listener. We want people to think about nature - what it is and how we should relate to it. So we thought the best way was to force those who want to listen to our album before it's officially released into the forest. Beside that, listening to our music in the woods activates other senses too. The whole band comes from an area where the big woods are always present and have been historically important for people's livelihoods. So I guess we have it in us and that affects what the music becomes.

How do you make sure that people are actually in a forest? Could they also be in a bigger park or public green space?

The #link: uses Google Maps where forests have a specific green color, which differs from parks or soccer fields. GPS coordinates are sent from the smartphone to a web service which scans the map through Google Maps Static API and uses a specific algorithm to determine if the user is in the woods 'enough'.

A mobile phone on a block of wood. It reads: you are there, now listen

If you go down in the woods today, be sure of a big surprise...

Your website says you are a band "with its roots in the deep wild woods of Värmland, Sweden". Can you describe the region and give us an idea what this means?

Seventy percent of Värmland is covered in forest - mostly pines and fir trees. It’s one of the most dense forest areas in the country. The region has the biggest population of wolves in Scandinavia and is also home to bears, boars, moose and many other species.

Forests and animals have a natural place in the storytelling of our region. Our most famous writer is the Nobel prize winner, Selma Lagerlöf, and nature often plays a major role in her novels. It is often portrayed as dark and somewhat evil, and as a threat to humans. This has become a part of our storytelling history.

Let's talk about environment and nature. From what I have seen of Sweden, it is a green country - does that play a role in your music and lyrics?

It does! Sweden is “green” in many ways. It is green because we have large forest areas and national parks where you can experience nature. It is also green in that many people consider themselve to be environmental friendly, and environment is an important political issue.

If there weren’t big forests and natural landscapes in Sweden we probably wouldn’t have the same inspiration for our lyrics. And if there wasn’t a debate about environmental issues we probably wouldn't be inspired to write at all.

Do you want your music to inspire people to think about the environment and nature?

Nature romanticism in lyrics, films and documentaries has helped our interest in nature to grow. We believe it plays a major role in man's interest in and awareness of environmental issues.

We also encourage people to think about how nature is represented in culture. The simplistic picture of nature is easy to take in and be amazed by. But our romantic perception of nature can be harmful. We preserve the parts of nature that we enjoy and find attractive. But the parts that are most vital for the environment and biodiversity are often the parts that don't get much attention in culture. This is a concept we're working on for our upcoming releases.

Do you think the kind of people who listen to John Moose care about the world they live in more than others do?

We think so. Of course some people who like our music don't care about these issues. But many are interested in our concept before they hear our music. There are also people who dislike us without ever listening to our music. Simply because they do not like nature as a theme.

You are likely of a generation that will experience the effects of climate change - how much do you care about that?

We care. Not because it might affect us personally, but because the biggest victims of climate change, overuse of natural resources and pollution are nature, animals and people already exposed to tough conditions. The world needs to change. Not to save ourselves, but to make it sustainable for all living things.

This interview was edited for clarity.

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