National Geographic: a centuries-old global publication that holds the key to our world’s many mysteries and beauties. Unbiased, earnest and passionate, National Geographic intrepidly explores every landscape, terrain and culture on earth, honoring each in its own unique way. From expert interviews and in-depth footage to candid imagery and insight, National Geographic has, year after year, succeeded in objectively yet respectfully capturing the diversity and complexity of our world. For the past 130 years, this beloved magazine’s focus has always been the reverent observation, unwavering conservation and historic preservation of our world. And the dedicated journalists, photographers, editors and videographers of National Geographic have upheld this vision through print, photography, videography and now, even music.
Created by National Geographic and produced by Jason Michael Paul Entertainment, Symphony for our World is a 90-minute marvel of nature that magically transforms 130 years of archival National Geographic footage into a breathtaking, moving work of art. With musical themes developed by Emmy and BAFTA-nominated Bleeding Fingers, composition by Austin Fray and Andrew Christie and according accompaniment by The Austin Symphony Orchestra and other renowned orchestras, Symphony for our World is a multi-sensory masterpiece in honor of Earth Day. The educational and entertaining symphonic tour started in San Francisco, California and made its way to the Long Center in Austin, Texas.
Broken up into five main movements, the symphony is a photographic and symphonic homage to the precious harmony of our ecosystem that explores the rare beauty of our world from ocean depths to mountaintops. By seamlessly merging professional orchestra conducted by Kelly Corcoran, ethereal vocals, expert interviews from scientists and visionaries such as Sylvia Earl, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jason Silva, and stunning videography, National Geographic brings decades of historic footage to life in a visually striking and intellectually stimulating musical experience unlike any other.
Jason Michael Paul is a true success story in the producing world and brings almost 20 years of musical producing experience to this conservation-conscious performance. From video game symphonies to world-wide operas, Jason Michael Paul has produced it all. Starting his professional music career in his early 20’s, Jason built his brand from the ground up, earning his chops working on various concerts for artists such as Elton John and Michael McDonald of The Doobie Brothers. His big break came when he landed a global opera gig with the late, great Luciano Pavarotti and the Three Tenors. For the next several years, Jason, along with Luciano and the Three Tenors, traveled the world from the pyramids to Pisa, which is when he discovered his love for world exploration. Jason then found a niche in video game symphonies, where he successfully produced several video game and Nintendo based symphonies including PLAY! A Video Game Symphony, Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses and symphonies for the popular film and video game franchise Final Fantasy. But Jason’s love of travel and impressive film orchestra portfolio would eventually gain the attention of the iconic National Geographic, who gave him the coveted opportunity to pursue his passion of world exploration with Symphony for our World. Together, their goal is to spark curiosity, which is the foundation of exploration and invention. “It’s an honor to work with an organization that’s been around as long as they have,” says Jason of the recent collaboration. When asked about his reaction to working with the legendary National Geographic, Jason said:
I’m ecstatic! For the first time in my career I’m creating something that’s globally relevant and crucial to survival […] creating something that people can come to and be made aware and more conscious of our world. The best feeling I have is that this is 130 years of National Geographic archival footage that is taking you to places only National Geographic can take you, and we’re doing that with this amazing soundtrack…”
As the show begins, striking images of flocks, herds, prides, mountains, oceans and other natural wonders burst onto the screen. The orchestra slowly crescendos and builds, inducing chills and goosebumps with its perfect synchronicity until it reaches the iconic National Geographic theme song. Then…the real magic begins…
Symbiosis 1: Harmony
Budding blossoms race into bloom, birds cross the sky in perfect sync and the symphony completes the picture displayed behind them with sweet sounds of harmony. The first movement of Symphony for our World focuses on the balance of life on earth, from ocean to land. Through a sequence of stunning images and landscapes, we see that each creature has a place, purpose, and, thanks to the musical accompaniment of the Austin Symphony, a unique beauty. Hundreds of species of flora and fauna cooperate together on screen to illustrate the mysterious way in which the world is connected.
Symbiosis 2: The Human Race
Human beings have played a crucial role in our earth’s development, destruction and delicate ecosystem. With the dawn of man came the age of curiosity, exploration and invention. From our first discovery of fire to the first atomic bomb, man’s thirst for progress and conquest has proven to be insatiable. The orchestra plays enthusiastically as people of all cultures around the world dance and celebrate in their own worlds. The sheer determination and doggedness of humankind is displayed in footage of competitors, athletes, explorers and extreme adventures as the symphony sculpts the nuances and nature of human civilization.
Symbiosis 3: Balance – Life & Death
The third movement of the symphony musically punctuates the precarious balance between life and death on earth. One cannot exist without the other and both have a vital impact on the homeostasis and continuity of our world. This movement focuses on observance, expertly editing together black-and-white clips of bygone explorers and innovators who paved the way for human progress. Through sheer curiosity, human kind found a way to harness energy, and arcane concepts such as agriculture and science suddenly became reality. A sequence of baby animals taking their first feeble steps and plants emerging determined from the ground prove that, through life and death, the world moves ceaselessly forward.
A brief interview with revered marine biologist and founder of Mission Blue Dr. Sylvia Earle segues the symphony into the 4th movement: The Sea. The mighty oceans of our of earth merit their own symphonic movement because, according to marine biologist Sylvia: “The single non-negotiable thing life requires is water” (Earle; ‘The World is Blue’). From white, foamy waves to the secrets that lurk in the ocean’s depths, The Sea movement is a completely immersive illumination of aquatic life in all forms. Clever octopi and colorful jellyfish dance gracefully underwater along with the symphony, as if the songs were made for them. Formidable predators and schools of fish animate the still waters until finally, a majestic killer whale breaks the surface of the placid sea and comes crashing down in an awe-inspiring vision of power.
The Sea 2: The Shore
The second movement in The Sea sequence takes viewers to the multi-terrained shores of our world. Close-up clips of roving crustaceans, rolling tides, glacial giants and solitary footprints in the snow are accompanied by a carefully orchestrated soundtrack of violins, cellos voices and wind instruments. The intricate balance between destruction and life is displayed in violent erupting volcanoes and hoards of frenzied sea turtles rushing from the shore to salvation.
The harmonious movements of the live orchestra continue to accompany stunning visuals of land, mountains and sky as the Symphony for our World completes its musical exploration of our planet. “It’s truly nature in harmony” says producer Jason of the five part musical and visual tour of our earth.
“I think the message that we’re trying to send [with Symphony for our World] is not just one of beautiful music or visuals, it’s a deeper message. If I can use this as a platform to inspire curiosity and conservation and inspire people to continue to explore, then I’m satisfied both professionally and personally”,
says Jason of his latest philanthropic collaboration.
The creators of Symphony for our World have also used this inspiring one-of-a-kind collaboration as a conscientious effort to reduce plastic use worldwide. By eliminating all plastic straws from their shows, National Geographic hopes to encourage a more sustainable, environmentally conscious lifestyle, one performance at a time.
National Geographic representative Valerie Perry, who has been overseeing the programming and production of live National Geographic events for five years, aptly refers to Symphony for our World as ‘entertainment with a purpose’:
“I’m so excited to work on this project and see it live. From a concept on a page to the first cuts of the video to the final version that we have today” […] “It’s a great relationship between Jason’s expertise in the symphony world and National Geographic’s 130 year history of ground-breaking storytelling [which includes] working with the best scientists, explorers, photographers and filmmakers in the world…and to marry that into a one-of-a-kind experience I think will really engage and enlighten, but also definitely entertain, audiences!”
With each performance, the show evolves as Jason and National Geographic strive for perfection. Jason and Valerie plan to view every single performance from the audience’s perspective, ensuring that each show is even better than the last. They even hold viewer surveys to gain valuable feedback on the relevancy and quality of the performance. “It’s only going to continue to improve”, says Jason of the ongoing tour. Symphony for our World will continue its global tour throughout the summer, entertaining Australia, Ireland, Los Angeles, China, Mexico, Malaysia and beyond, and adding even more new and amazing footage to each performance.
So check the National Geographic Symphony for our World schedule for this touring celebration of earth, because it’s truly an unforgettable, eye-opening experience that sheds light on the altogether beauty and frailty of our one world.