Wednesday 3 March | Olivia Vjekoslava Tomasovic

For her #100DaysOfGreenNevis project, oboe player Olivia Tomasovic is making daily improvisations based on endangered species.

“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught will we realise that we cannot eat money.” Cree Indigenous Proverb.

I was inspired by this proverb to use the best way I know to talk about the beautiful wildlife that share this planet with us, and their struggles for survival. I chose to create short stories/soundtracks about vulnerable and critically endangered wildlife using improvisation. Each day I perform an improvisation using a different woodwind instrument, often combining them with percussion instruments some of which are handmade from Fair Trade.

To mark each 10th day, I created improvisation pieces in response to environments impacted by climate change. I believe music is a powerful communication tool. It can stir deep emotions, generate reaction, and speak profoundly to people without words. My goal for this project is to raise awareness on the fragility of our planet, of the beautiful plants and creatures we share this precious space with, and of some of the great organisations and people who are committed to protecting them for our future. I hope that through my improvisations and their stories, that others will be inspired to help our earth in small ways, for even the smallest stone can help to create a great mountain.

Day 3 – Ghost Orchid

Today’s Improvisation was inspired by the rare and beautiful woodland orchid known as the Ghost Orchid. This beautiful plant is a critically endangered species found in areas of the UK in shaded woodland only emerging above ground to flower and seed. 

Day 8 – North Pacific Right Whale

For today’s improvisation I wanted to showcase some incredible sounds you can make with a woodwind instrument without making a conventional sound using the mouthpiece/reed. For this improvisation I have used the saxophone and added a reverb to give the sound a more watery depth to represent today’s critically endangered species the North Pacific Right Whale. This magnificent animal is under serious threat from people. Hunted to the brink of extinction, they were so-named because hunters singled them out considering them the “right” whales to kill.

Day 10 – The Vast Desert of Ice

As today is the 10th day of #100DaysOfGreenNevis, I wanted to do something a bit different. So rather than looking at an endangered species, I wanted to look at a threatened natural habitat. Today’s improvisation aims to raise awareness of the receding polar ice caps and in particular the loss of Arctic sea ice and the dangers this brings. As well as regulating the planet’s temperatures, melting Arctic sea ice brings rising sea levels which threaten costal communities. It also affects weather patterns and causes the release of large amounts of methane stored under the permafrost. And then there are the animals that depend on the ice for their survival. But all is not lost and we can still help our planet and save these precious places. Keeping with the theme of improvisation, I decided to create a piece using improvisation and sound manipulation. This is my first attempt and its called “The Vast Desert of Ice”. It responds to these unique and beautiful polar spaces of the Arctic, the solitude and the ice. 

Day 16 – Polar Bear

Today’s improvisation for was inspired by the vulnerable Polar bear, the largest bear in the world and the Arctic’s top predator.  These magnificant creatures are a powerful symbol of the strength and endurance of the Arctic. Sadly, they are under threat due to loss of habitat contributed to by the climate change. To represent the harsh and cold environment I over blew in the flute to create sounds to represent the wind and the ice that is slowly melting underneath their heavy paws, while the bells in between my toes represent the melting snow. 

Day 19 – Hawksbill Tutrle

Today’s improvisation was inspired by the beautiful Hawksbill turtle which are crittically endangered. They are in fact believed to be the most endangered of the seven species of sea turtles which exist today. Hawksbills are amongst the smallest of the sea turtles and are easily identifiable by their unique shell, narrow heads and beak-like jaws allowing them to feast mainly on sponges. The Hawskbill turtes are a fundamental link in the marine ecosystems and help maintain the health of coral reefs and sea grass beds. Sea turtles have been traveling our seas for the last 100 million years, but the Hawksbill turtle is now under serious threat mainly due to fishing and illegal trade. 

Day 20 – The Unkown Fear

As today is the 20th day of #100daysofgreennevis I wanted to speak about the destruction we are causing to our natural world, due to human greed. So I created this piece titled “The Unknown Fear” using improvisation and sound manipulation in response to the climate crisis and the fear we experience as we become increasingly aware of the extent of damage already done. l also drew on the aspect of fear in the animal world as creatures flee rising water levels and wildfires, while plants die and trees splinter, crack and burn. But not all is lost, they are some wonderful organisations advocating for policy change to governments and industry such as “Ember” and “Sandbag”. 

Day 23 – Osprey

Today’s improvisation was inspired by the magnificant Osprey. This spectacular fish-eating bird of prey is on the RSPB’s Amber List and is under threat due to illegal killing and low breeding numbers. There are several incredible organisations that take care of our most endangered species in Scotland. One of them is the Osprey Centre in the Cairnigorns which I had the chance to visit a few years ago, and see their work in helping to save the Ospreys and other endangered species in Scotland. 

From 1 February 2021, Nevis is running #100DaysOfGreenNevis, where our musicians, staff and trustees will each take on a task for 100 days linked to Sustainability. We’d love you to join us, either by following the campaign online to get ideas of what you can do, or to show us you own actions for us to share. If you would like to know more, do get in touch at georgina@nevisensemble.org 

Nevis Ensemble’s #GreenNevis campaign in 2019 won the Environmental Sustainability award at the 2020 Scottish Awards for New Music, and was shortlisted for Best Campaign by Julie’s Bicycle.