The Crossroads Project sponsored a multi-media performance at Armor Hall in Wave Hill, a cultural center located in the northwest section of the Bronx, on Feb. 16.
Dr. Robert Davies, the founder of Crossroads Project, is a physicist at Utah State University. His organization considers the ways in which societies interact with surrounding natural environments and then spearheads projects to qualify those interactions. The Crossroads Project is centered on what photographer and environmentalist Yann Arthus Bertrand describes as “the time for us to believe what we know.” Believing what we know, according to Dr. Davies and the rest of the Crossroads Project, ultimately means to grapple with issues of sustainability. These issues were tackled by the Fry Street Quartet, a performance group that has received critical acclaim both within and beyond the art music scene.
By Pamela Segura
The Fry Street Quartet, founded in Chicago in 1997, performed Joseph Haydn’s “Sunrise” string quartets, Leoš Janáček’s “String Quartet No. 1,” and contemporary composer Laura Kaminsky's “Rising Tide,” which was commissioned by the Crossroads Project.
To contextualize the performance, Dr. Davies highlighted certain environmental crises that are prevalent nowadays, including:
· The BP oil spill
· Melting ice caps in the Artic
· "Sacrifice" zones in the United States
· Endangered plant and animal species
These issues—which bring forth opportunities to discuss not only science but also philosophical, social, and psychological issues—were metaphorically represented by the pieces performed by the Fry Street Quartet.
The four performers—violinists Robert Waters and Rebecca McFaul, cellist Anne Francis Bayless, and violist Bradley Ottesen—embodied the difficulties that continue to challenge environmentalist movements. The ensemble performed fragments of Haydn’s “Sunrise,” focusing on the opening section that oscillated between frenetic, energetic and reflective, contemplative paces.
Kaminsky’s “Rising Tide,” which was composed with the Crossroads Project’s aims in mind, consisted of four movements. Kaminsky’s affecting piece was at once mournful, reproachful, frantic, and self-aware—the movements captured the multifaceted elements of environmentalism. It is not just about understanding sustainability on an intellectual or distanced level—it is about believing what we understand, grappling with the different emotions that emerge from that belief, and endeavoring to plan ahead.
Between performances, Dr. Davies guided the audience through the different ways we engage the environment. He also showcased a series of evocative images of the earth, different organisms, and human populations across the globe.
Dr. Davies broke up his talks into sections entitled “H2O,” “Bios,” “Forage,” “Societas,” and “Re-Imagine.” In each section, the professor implicitly explored the ways in which a “Systems Biology” view of the world necessitates exchanges between life and the natural environment. Fundamentally, scientists in Systems Biology apply a holistic rather than reductionist approach to biology, biochemistry, biomedics, and other related fields. This methodical approach, which aims to show the interdependence between parts, is highly effective in an educational and environmental context.
Dr. Davies ended the Crossroads Project with a meditation that was backed by Janáček’s “String Quartet No. 1.” The performers spoke about their desires for a different and better culture in the future, one that eliminated the environmental and social consequences of problems like oil spills, the greenhouse effect, and other catastrophes.