Allan Zavod

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Promo Video: (3:34min)

Trailer Video: (6:55min)

Environmental SymphonyTHE BEGINNING:

A brain child of three inspirational leaders: Dr. Allan Zavod, Dr Alan Finkel and Sir Richard Branson collaborated together to create an Inspirational Live Event

"Dr. Alan Finkel and I got together, and we decided we should do something together. It really all started in a restaurant. We were talking about that we should do something about the environment. Then Alan just came out with 'Carbon Dioxide, Methane on Mass, Billions of Bacteria, Making Oxygen Gas.' Well, you can imagine what this does to me as a musician! What better way to deliver environmental winds than through the Arts, through an adventure." - DR. ALLAN ZAVOD

The Environmental Symphony was Zavod's last major work before his death in 2016

Environmental SymphonyPROMO & TRAILER VIDEOS:

In the promo video, Allan Zavod, Alan Finkel and Sir Richard Branson talk about the importance of this work. Both videos give you a feel of the amazing visuals, powerful music and inspirational words used throughout the 5 movements of the remarkable symphony. (Note: You can watch both videos by scrolling to the top of this page.)


For the very first time, a sample of the descriptive work was performed at Sydney Town Hall on the 15th October 2010. It was the centre piece for the Prime Minister's prestigious Banksia Environmental Awards.

Sir Richard Branson (Entrepreneur / Philanthropist). was the original narrator of the abridged version (found on the promo and trailer videos)

From the Banksia website media release on 2 June, 2010 "Banksia Awards launches national search for leaders in sustainability"

<...>The Banksia Awards launch also featured a preview of a unique environmental symphony composed by legendary composer Dr. Allan Zavod, which will be performed for the very first time at the Banksia Awards Presentation at Sydney Town Hall on the 15th October 2010.

Dr Allan Zavod said, "Scientists and politicians have numbed us with their pounding messages. What better way to deliver environmental awareness than through the Arts."

Environmental SymphonyA TRIBUTE TO DR ALLAN ZAVOD:

An Inspirational live event. The descriptive work in 5 movements was performed in full for the first time on SUNDAY 20 DECEMBER, 2015. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performed this landmark concert at Hamer Hall, Arts Centre, Melbourne. A unique cinematic composition for live orchestra, including introductory narration and synchronised visuals.

The programmatic work melds classical and jazz principles, with a story spanning the Earth's formation nearly five billion years ago to several hundred years into the future.

The music allows us to focus us on the message, and adds emotional empatsis. It closely follows the graphic images, and the narative

Music has a role to play raising awareness of "scientific truths", it can add a fresh way of addressing the problem.

Composed by: Dr. Allan Zavod (Composer / Performer);
Words written by: Dr Alan Finkel (Australia's Chief Scientist / Philanthropist);
Narration by: Jack Thompson;
Featured Visuals by: Ross McNair;
Conductor: Benjamin Northey;
Host: Bert Newton

Note: All proceeds (over $100,000.00) went to the Royal Melbourne Hospital for GBM Brain Cancer Research - thru the Zavod Fellowship. Zavod said: "My goal is to continue raising funds through my music for research to find a cure for this form of cancer."


Limelight Review: (by Maxim Boon):

This touching tribute to composer Allan Zavod shares an important message in an easily accessible language.

For its final outing of 2015, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra offered a special event, unified by a single purpose but built out of series of curious combinations. Strident ecological activism rubbed shoulders with heart-warming philanthropy; rich, syrupy romanticism went toe-to-toe with fleet-footed jazz; the ancient past reached out beyond the present and into a rose-tinted future. The unifying impetus knitting together these disparate strands was the life and work of one man: composer and pianist Allan Zavod.

All at once a showcase, a tribute and an opportunity to curate, the world premiere of Zavod's The Environmental Symphony, took top billing. This ambitious piece, featuring a poetic narration written by eminent neuroscientist Alan Finkle, delivered here by Aussie acting great Jack Thompson, is a patchwork of aesthetic influences. Flavours of American minimalism, the harmonically sumptuous lyricism of the early 20th-century Romantic composers, and a musical theatre style of jazz-rock swagger all happily percolate through the effervescent textures of this five movement work.

While the vernacular of the music is undeniably easy to access, Zavod holds no quarter with the technical pressures of this piece. Its dense orchestration is chock full of instrumental challenges and finickety balance issues, but conductor Benjamin Northey at the helm makes light work of taming this sometimes unruly beast. His approach is ideal for unriddling a new work, offering a nurturing yet commanding presence. Clearly carved and metronomic, yet brightly communicative, Northey's rapport with the orchestra yields an energised and responsive nuance to the performance that galvanises the inevitably disjointed nature of such an episodic piece.

The Environmental Symphony's narrative and philosophical scope is vast, covering the formation of the planet, Earth's gradual transition from molten hell to life-giving eden, the hubris of man in the industrial revolution, the ecological devastation of global warming, and an optimistic vision of a greener future. The music is more cinematic than programmatic, with a stunningly polished video projection by Ross McNair, synchronised in real time, providing the explicit narrative context. Thompson's delivery of the text is given the superb finesse one would expect from such an acting legend, but the jaunty tweeness of the insistently rhymed couplets that pervade throughout pinches some of the gravitas this subject matter deserves.

New music purists might find Zavod's particular brand of crossover a little too far on the pop side of the spectrum, and indeed, relatively speaking, this music doesn't seek to challenge any conventions. However this is no bad thing. While the articulation of this endeavour has culminated in something lighter than its inspiration implies, delivering such an important message in a language that is as accessible as possible is key to The Environmental Symphony's potential to communicate with a broad audience.

In the second half, Zavod selected Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances as an ideal partner for his own music. In more mercurial form, Northey perfect judged both the tempi and character of the performance, whipping up a driving muscularity in the full orchestral tuttis, but allowing a serene elasticity to delicately shape Rachmaninov's long, luxuriant phrases in the more reflective passages. Perhaps at times this performance revealed a lack of preparation, particularly in the idiosyncrasies of the wind intonation that need to accommodate the innately flat heaviness of the saxophone, bass clarinet and contrabassoon, but largely this was an assured account.

However, any minor foibles with this concert hardly matter. Thanks to the generosity of a number of benefactors, 100% of the tickets sales to the performance - in excess of $100,000 - has been donated to the Royal Melbourne Hospital Neuroscience Foundation to fund research into treatments for brain cancer, a condition that Allan Zavod is currently battling. With such a tangible level of support and admiration in the hall, the atmosphere of this performance was unashamedly jubilant, heartfelt and immensely touching. Could there be a more ideal way to end 2015? I doubt it.


Since it's first full performance in 2015, this unique cinematic composition has been performed around the world with the narration spoken in the country's own language.

Environmental SymphonyABC MUSIC CD RELEASE:

Environmental Symphony flyer

Allan Zavod's Environmental Symphony performed live by the MSO was re-recorded by ABC on Oct 10th and 11th, 2018 at Hamer Hall.

The Environmental Symphony was released by ABC Classics, as a digital download and new CD, on United Nations World Environment Day, Wednesday June 5, 2019.

Composed by: Dr. Allan Zavod (Composer / Performer);
Words written by: Dr Alan Finkel (Australia's Chief Scientist / Philanthropist);
Narration by: Sir Richard Branson (Entrepreneur / Philanthropist);
Music performed by: Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Benjamin Northey

The 5 movements are outlined below:

  • Movement 1 is Creation: The beginning of the world forming
  • Movement 2 is Industrial Revolution: When we destroyed some of this paradise with industrial revolution, with urbanisation
  • Movement 3 is The Calm before The Storm: About time for action and the efforts towards clean air
  • Movement 4 is Global Warming, Final Warning: About carbon dioxide and global warming
  • Movement 5 is Preservation Sensation: Shows a more positive outlook - looks to the future


Sir Richard Branson talks about his work on the Environmental Symphony:

Sir Richard Branson at lookout on his private Caribbean Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands - where initial recordings for the narration for the Symphony were made.

I got my start in the music industry, but I never thought I'd get the chance to become a lead vocalist. Not in five billion years. But if you wait long enough...

This World Environment Day, I'm honoured to be part of The Environmental Symphony, a wonderful musical project to deliver a critical message about the need to protect and cherish the Earth we all share.

The Environmental Symphony is an incredible collaboration, with music by Dr Allan Zavod, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey, words by Australia's chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel - and narration by yours truly.

Spanning five billion years, it tells the tale of planet Earth, from its formation five billion years ago to through to the devastation of our current age. It calls for a radical reaction to the climate crisis, demanding bold action to achieve the clean, green future we all need.

Allan Zavod has worked with some of my musical heroes, from Frank Zappa to Sting, so I was delighted to be involved in The Environmental Symphony, his last major work before his death in 2016. Meanwhile, I've long known and respected Alan Finkel for his work in science and education.

The album goes from Creation through to the Industrial Revolution, the Calm before the Storm to Global Warming, Final Warning. Fittingly, we end on a positive note, calling for a Preservation Sensation in the coming months and years.

I must be honest; I've never been much of a musician myself, but I've always had an eye for musical talent. What's more I have got used to delivering words I am passionate about over the years, especially when they are for such a crucial cause. I hope this record makes a real difference.

ABC Music Review:

Zavod: The Environmental Symphony -

Narrated by Sir Richard Branson
Music by Dr Allan Zavod | Words by Dr Alan Finkel
Narrated by Sir Richard Branson
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey

".delivering such an important message in a language that is as accessible as possible is key to The Environmental Symphony'spotential to communicate with a broad audience." - Limelight (2015)

ABC Classic presents The Environmental Symphony, an ambitious and epic work that spans five billion years, from the formation of the planet through to the devastation of our current age.

MSO performing the Environmental Symphony

Released on United Nations World Environment Day, Wednesday June 5, The Environmental Symphony sounds a warning of what will happen if we don't act boldly and decisively to address our climate crisis, but ends with an optimistic vision of a greener, cleaner future.

With music by the genre-bending Dr. Allan Zavod, words by Dr. Alan Finkel, narrated by Sir Richard Branson, and performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and conductor Benjamin Northey, this recording is a major international release that lends some musical muscle to the ongoing political and environmental fight against climate change.

Known for his unique creative blend of improvised jazz and classical music, Dr. Allan Zavod wasone of Australia's most exciting pioneers of fusion music - a pianist, composer, arranger, producer, and conductor, he broke down barriers between genres alongside international superstars such as Eric Clapton, Frank Zappa, Sting, Nigel Kennedy and many more. The Environmental Symphony was his last major work before his death in 2016.

Dr Alan Finkel, a friend and admirer of Allan Zavod's performance and creative prowess, was honoured when Zavod asked him to provide the storyline and the libretto for The Environmental Symphony. They shared the belief that music and science could unite to provide a fresh insight into the problem of global warming. Currently Australia's Chief Scientist and a former Chancellor of Monash University and President of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Finkel has had a long and successful career in industry. He has received many accolades and awards, and is passionate about science education.

Since starting youth culture magazine Student at aged 16, Sir Richard Branson has found entrepreneurial ways to drive positive change in the world. In 2004 Richard established Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group, which unites people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world. Most of his time is now spent building businesses that will make a positive difference in the world and working with Virgin Unite and organisations it has incubated, such as The Elders, The Carbon War Room, The B Team and Ocean Unite. He also serves on the Global Commission on Drug Policy and supports ocean conservation with the Ocean Elders.

Australian conductor Benjamin Northey is the Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and the Associate Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Highly active in the performance of Australian orchestral music, Northey is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, his awards include the prestigious 2010 Melbourne Prize Outstanding Musician's Award and the 2002 Brian Stacey Memorial Scholarship, as well as multiple awards and nominations for his numerous CD recordings with ABC Classic.

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is a leading cultural figure in the Australian arts landscape, bringing the best in orchestral music and passionate performance to a diverse audience across the nation and around the world. Each year the MSO engages with more than 5 million people through live concerts, TV, radio and online broadcasts, international and regional tours, recordings and education programs. From its home at Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne, to free summer concerts at Melbourne's largest outdoor venue, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the MSO evolves and inspires a broad range of audiences with more than 160 concerts a year.

New ABC Promo Video: (1:36min)

Use these links to listen to the 5 Movements:

1 - Creation (11:45 min)
2 - Industrial Revolution (8:06 min)
3 - The Calm Before The Storm (6:53 min)
4 - Global Warming, Final Warning (6:12 min)
5 - Preservation Sensation (9:03 min)

Radio Interviews about Environmental SymphonyRADIO INTERVIEWS:

ABC Breakfast Interview (Jun 2019)

Christina Zavod is interviewed on the ABC Breakfast Show with Vanessa Mills. She talks about her husband and his passion for music in general and specifically for his last major piece of work: the Environmental Symphony.
Listen to the interview

"My Allan heard music in everything," recalls Christine Zavod about her musically talented husband. "It didn't matter what it was - the milkman, the garbage man - he could hear music in that. He was amazing. His passion was to reach people through music."

"He just loved people, he embraced humanity, all people. He wanted them to be uplifted with his music," Christine said. "His passion was to reach people through his music. He always hoped to make a difference, and that music is the most powerful way to do it."

A scientist, a pianist and an entrepreneur walk into a bar on a Caribbean Island. Its no joke. The 2015 collaboration between Australians Dr. Alan Finkel and Dr. Allan Zavod, and Sir Richard Branson resulted in a symphony of science and music, with an environmental warning for the future.

"Dr. Alan Finkel wrote the narration with the laymen in mind. Alan Finkel was also the one to ask Sir Richard Branson if he would narrate the work. When Richard accepted, he suggested that they record it on his island in the Caribbean. Richard was very excited about the prospect, saying that he had never read a narration to a symphony before. The 42 minute work required a great deal of narration, and Branson threw himself into it."

ABC Classic Mornings Interview (Jun 2019)

In an interview with ABC Classic Mornings presenter Martin Buzacott, Dr Finkel shared that the final movement of the symphony: Listen to the interview

"It is mine and Allan's shared view of an optimistic future, where we do crack it. And the message there is really the vision that a hypothetical astronaut in the future would have in orbit around the Earth and looking down on our beautiful planet, still preserved."

"We felt that there had been a great awareness of the problems and almost a bit of an exhaustion.In general, people were perhaps a little bit jaded. It just adds a fresh way of addressing the problem."