Judith Shatin

Portrait of Judith Shatin seated in front of bookshelf
Based in Charlottesville, VA
Website: www.judithshatin.com

“My music is often animated by the calls of animals and the sounds of the world, both natural and built. My hope is, through empathetic response, to urge action to protect the land and all who are nourished by it.”


The effects of our behaviors on other humans, non-human animals and the planet itself have become an increasing focus of my music. This began with my evening-length folk oratorio, COAL, sponsored by the Lila Wallace Readers Digest Arts Partners Program and has continued with ever-increasing concern through pieces such as Singing the Blue Ridge (mezzo, baritone, orchestra and calls of indigenous animals), For the Birds (amplified cello and birdsong from the Yellowstone region), Ice Becomes Water (string orchestra and electronics fashioned by processing glacier field recordings), View from Mt. Nebo (the sere mountaintop from which Moses looks to the promised land he will never reach) and, most recently, Terra Infirma (amplified instrumental septet and electronics fashioned form the fauna and sounds of the Great Lakes themselves). The latter was commissioned by Michigan Technological University, who premiered it. Rather than creating soundscape compositions, my goal is to create music that evokes empathy with the extraordinary range of animate inhabitants of the world. My hope is that this music, with its combination of field recordings both processed and transparent, creates an emotional pull that helps motivate people to take the actions we so urgently need to protect the landscape and all who are nourished by it.

Work Samples

Ice Becomes Water (2017) for string orchestra and electronics, commissioned by the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and its conductor Barbara Day Turner, in a performance by the Houston-based River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Mei-Ann Chen.

“Ice Becomes Water was inspired by field recordings shared by glaciologist Oskar Glowaki, who studies acoustic signatures of glaciers. I was driven by concern for the massive glacier melting that is dramatically altering the landscape and the availability of water to all who depend on it, as well as contributing to sea level rise and climate change.

Terra Infirma (2022) performed by Fulcrum Point New Music Project in Chicago, conducted by Stephen Burns. Performers include Jeremy Ruthrauff, saxophone, Rebecca Oliviero, trumpet, Andy Baker, trombone, Kathleen Carter, violin, Sarah Plum, viola, Paula Kosower, cello, and Andy Cierny, percussion.

“Terra Infirma is my response in music to the dire situation of so many animals and of the challenges posed by habitat loss, pollution and climate change in the Great Lakes region. It was commissioned by Michigan Technological University with three movements, each featuring interactions moving from cooperation to hindrance, from discord to harmony, and from adaptive to restrictive. Each also reflects the abundance of the natural world and the dangers facing it. The question remains: can we mitigate our effects so that humans are not, ourselves, a dire pandemic for the rest of the earth’s inhabitants and the planet itself?”

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