News, weather, and sports. It’s the holy trinity of today’s media. Weather is universal. You don’t have to know anything about batting averages or Shi’a-Sunni relations to fully appreciate a beautiful spring day. To some extent, weather is the great leveler. It affects people in more or less the same way, i.e. nobody enjoys being cold and wet for long periods of time. A miserably gray, rainy day can trigger a collective mood that’s almost palpable in the air and on the faces of passersby. Recently, the effects of especially violent weather patterns have been hogging the spotlight in this journalistic three-ring circus. Of course, there’s always some conservative religious leader out there ready to blame it all on God’s wrath towards Ellen Degeneres. Just goes to show, weather actually does affect culture. If a radical global weather shift occurred, would the Irish sense of humor survive in a tropical climate?
In a way, music’s emotional impact is a lot like the weather, albeit an easily escapable microclimate. Good thing, too. Imagine being hit with a case of musical affective disorder or using a special edition of the Farmers’ Almanac to plot the particularities expected from your next crop of compositions. But come to think of it, weather metaphors proliferate in music, from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to Nicolas Reeves’s Cloud Harp. Even ancient cultures once used music and dance to induce rain. My guess is this practice doesn’t happen much these days. Hey, any composers out there willing to run with this? I’d love to hear an invocation of any sort of weather by Maria de Alvear. She seems sufficiently in touch with Mother Nature. Now, if we can just convince The Weather Channel to fund a few commissions.