Going Deep: Can Music Save Our Oceans?

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Although the French composer Claude Debussy was regarded as the father of Impressionist classical music, he hated the term. Still, it was difficult not to compare his masterpieces with those of his contemporaries — such as Turner and Whistler— who drew inspiration from European rivers and beaches where the sun offered an infinite palette that sparkled on water bodies in their paintings. Debussy was probably humblebragging when he rejected the accolade; in October 1905, he launched La Mer (The Sea), a composition regarded as “the greatest example of an orchestral Impressionist work.” 

“Sound waves and the ocean waves are physical manifestations of the same laws that govern our entire experience,” said Benjamin Schultz, part of the duo behind Effortless Audio, a music production company specializing in Lo-Fi Hip Hop, Soul, RnB, and Jazz Rap. The connection between culture and nature is undeniable.

“I would argue that even creativity tends to come to us in waves,” said his partner Kevin Zimmerman from Miami, where the label is based.

This connection got them thinking: what if we created an album about the ocean and donate all the proceeds to a cause that protects it? That’s when Effortless Audio reached out to The Oxygen Project (TOP) — an organization devoted to defending the ecosystems that produce our oxygen. “Every other breath we take comes from the ocean,” said Vasser Seydel, TOP’s Deep Sea Mining Campaign Manager. The two organizations quickly discovered that they share a fondness for our planet and good tunes. “We knew that Effortless Audio’s soothing songs would be a great conduit to raise awareness about Deep Sea Mining and the pillaging of the marine abyss.” 

The brainchild of this creative endeavor between music producers and activists gave birth to Deep Blue, a collaborative album in which 16 different artists participated, including  Berlin-based, lo-fi hip hop musician Sweet Medicine, aimed at raising awareness about the industrialization of our oceans. Specifically, the proceeds will be used by TOP to fund their campaign against Deep Seabed Mining, the practice of extracting rare-earth minerals from the seabed while needlessly destroying millions of species in mostly unexplored ecosystems.

“We have the responsibility to do all humanly possible to bring an end to the ruthless exploitation of the ocean in the form of deep seabed mining,” said Zimmerman.

Here’s how the innovative collaboration is making waves: sixteen different artists — who are deeply passionate about the ocean — created original tracks for the Deep Blue compilation (which you can find here) and agreed to donate all of the proceeds to support TOP. All that’s left to do is play the music over and over again. The more you listen to these songs, the more we’ll raise. It’s the most effortless and efficient way you can contribute to our mission, which has the objective of demanding the International Seabed Authority for a 10-year moratorium on any mining ventures. until proper research has been conducted (giving us a full understanding of its impact on marine life and future generations). 

The sonorous bass drops of Deep Blue mix with delicate harp notes that intertwine over a crisp background merging the graceful sounds of an underwater universe we seldom have access to; coral swaying in the currents, sand grains rolling against each other with the tides, a faint echo of a cetacean dwelling in the abyss. The song is elevated even further thanks to its illusory cover — photography by Ben Thouard (a Frenchman living in Tahiti since he was 22 years old) — that merges the ocean’s surface with its underlying core in a surreal image blending the boundaries of both, puzzling to the viewer who will ponder on the right/wrong direction until we remember that it doesn’t really matter: as above, so below. 

“All my most memorable climate-related experiences are in the ocean; I remember one overcast morning when the light wasn’t that great and only a few rays of sun started to pierce through the clouds. You could feel the storm approaching at high speed. The ocean was getting rough, but i was hypnotized by this coming storm and kept shooting until the storm got too intense,” said Thouard, while highlighting some of the images he curated for the release of his books, ANIMAL and SURFACE. “If the ocean continues to be filled with plastic, our marine life will go extinct. It’s a question of education; some people understand the project and take action, some don’t care, and others simply have no idea of what’s going on. I believe that education is key.” 

The Deep Blue project wouldn’t have happened without the help of Cody Miller, a marine biologist who contributed to the original idea and made the connection between the parties after joining our campaign against deep seabed mining.

“My work is all about protection and preservation, so I’m constantly thinking about unique and creative ways to bring about positive change for our oceans,” Miller said. 

Art can no longer be created just for the sake of art or the pleasure of our senses; it’s a technology, a tool, and a message itself that holds the power of representing values and calls to action. Culture and its many representations — poetry, dance, music, sculpture — are means of communication, bridges that bring different individuals together under the same message, and the duty to propose a common intention.

“As a company, we see the opportunity to translate our awareness,” said Schultz. 

“Through music, we can inspire the world to perform a dramatic shift towards a more conscious coexistence with nature.”

“Our company is small and our resources limited, but the consciousness that operates our decision-making is the decisive aspect. If this way of thinking were adopted across the industry so many resources could be redistributed for the sake of the future on this planet.” 

Everything is interconnected. Just because we don’t see deep seabed mining taking place doesn’t mean it won’t affect us. When we alter the balance of the ocean — responsible for creating between 50-80% of the oxygen we breathe — will unequivocally have an impact on the rest of the world. When we risk the 10 million species that live in that ecosystem, we’re threatening all beings on the planet, including us. 

“We need to realize that just because some of us aren’t near the ocean, that doesn’t mean that what we do in our day to day lives doesn’t negatively affect them,” said Schultz, moved by nature’s seemingly boundless energy.  “With that being said, we all also have the power to bring about positive change, no matter how far we live from the coastline. Just like flowing water, we aim to find the most uncomplicated way to reach our goals, and through persistence, we aim to smoothen even the roughest edges within our working environment. We also hope to nurture the life around us and become a basis for its prosperity — the many teachings that water embodies for us are countless.”

Eco-Warriors Around the World