The values of nature in music

Archie Crofton
Wednesday, 2nd December 2015
The values of nature in music

Stuck halfway through that poem? Can’t find the right lyrics to express yourself?

Writer’s block is an affliction that affects even the most creative of creatures. Without inspiration most people will struggle to get the creative juices flowing,  and consequently many turn to nature for guidance.  Nature’s role as a panacea for the imaginatively disinclined is well known, from the lonely wanderings of Wordsworth to Bon Iver whose melancholy, award-winning album- For Emma, Forever ago- was penned over a long winters stay amongst the Aspen pines of North Wisconsin.

 Yet despite the prevalence of Natures’ influence in the creative sphere, it might seem like an impossible task to try and value this source of inspiration. But that is exactly what researcher Luca Coscieme, from the University of Dublin has done. In a first of its kind, Coscieme measured the frequency of ecosystem related keywords (such as “tree” or “mountain”) amongst the lyrics of the 31 million songs on the iTunes store. By multiplying these “ecosystem inspired” songs by the total number of downloads, and averaging the price of a song in the iTunes Music store, they were able to estimate the contribution of cultural ecosystem services to the music industry from 2003 to 2014.

The results were dramatic, finding that over 1.4 million songs have been inspired by ecosystems, generating a total value of $600 million over the 11-year period. Curiously, lakes and rivers systems were the most popular ecosystems mentioned whilst wetland and coastal systems were the least referenced in song lyrics. This paper is likely to pave the way for further investigations into the cultural value of Nature across other creative fields.

 Link to paper: