Working at the intersection of climate change and species extinction made climatologist William deBuys heartsick. In a quest for something to feel hopeful about, he embarked on two medical expeditions to the Himalayas that inspired his upcoming book, "The Trail to Kanjiroba: Rediscovering Earth in an Age of Loss."
Composer William Brittelle spoke with deBuys of his travels and decided to undertake a similar quest for hope. Soon he started taking on fellow travelers — artists interested in creating "collaborative, three-dimensional compositions" built around finding hope while nevertheless confronting the world's dire direction.
The group grew to 24 artists. With the early support of Twin Cities impresario Kate Nordstrum, her organizations Liquid Music and the Great Northern, and a commission from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, the project snowballed. Soon, the Walker Art Center was on board as a presenter.
The result is "The Meta Simulacrum, Vol. 1," a musical and visual compendium of the artists' visions that premieres Sunday and Monday at walkerart.org. Brittelle's compositions serve as a thread throughout a project that he's described as "an elegy for a lost future, and a de facto embrace of the strange, surreal times ahead."
How many volumes will there be? "One of the good things about building an alternate reality is that it's pretty expansive," Brittelle said in a conversation presented by the Walker and Great Northern. "This is a 10-year project, not a 10-month project."
"The Meta Simulacrum" may best be described as a blend of music videos, narration and poetry. Among those joining Brittelle are musicians who can all place "composer" between their other descriptors, including Will Johnson, Erika Dohi, Holland Andrews and Channy Leaneagh, frontwoman of Twin Cities band Poliça.
Also performing are the celebrated vocal ensembles Roomful of Teeth and Constellation Chor as well as chamber orchestra Metropolis Ensemble, members of the Cincinnati Symphony and a band full of stylistically versatile instrumentalists.
Versatility is important because — and it's no surprise with so many composers involved — the music takes multiple paths. While Brittelle is the key creator, the score has elements of classical, jazz, soul and experimental rock.
The visuals are chiefly the responsibility of filmmaker Isaac Gale and editor/computer coder Patrick Marschke. It adds up to something of a miniature epic, an ambitious exploration of hope amid loss.
Rob Hubbard is a freelance classical music critic. • firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meta Simulacrum, Vol. 1
When: Streaming 7 p.m. Sun. through 11:59 p.m. Monday at walkerart.org.
Tickets: $5-$50 or pay-what-you-can.