The Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Conservation Biology Institute and Portugal. The Man have teamed up to create a song that could go extinct unless it’s reproduced.
“It’s all about actively doing something. If you don’t do anything, the song won’t be around anymore,” said Zachary Scott Carothers, bassist of the Alaskan rock group.
Actively doing something is at the center of the bands Earth Day-inspired Endangered Song project. The single song, entitled “Sumatran Tiger,” was manufactured only on lathe-cut, polycarbonate records which degrade more quckly than normal vinyl discs. The more the song is played, the more the record will wear out. Unless the song is digitally reproduced and shared (with the permission of the performers, songwriters and copyright holders, of course), it will become extinct as the records degrade, mirroring the fate of the Sumatran tigers.
Only 400 records were produced. The number of copies cut represents the approximate number of Sumatran tigers left in the world—about half in the wild, and half in zoos. Unless people take action, the species will die out completely.
The 400 copies were sent out to “carefully chosen influencers,” a list that included us at FMC. Receipients were encouraged to digitize and share the song online. “It’s kind of a metaphor for endangered species in hopes that it will raise awareness for the tigers and also keep the song alive, like we’re trying to keep the tigers alive,” Carothers said.
It’s perhaps an imperfect metaphor; digital preservation of music, while challenging for reasons that were recently discussed in a House Judiciary Subcommittee meeting, is certainly easier than saving a species. But as more fans try to locate the song online with hashtags of #endangeredsong and #sumatrantigers, more awareness is also brought to the dire state of extinction that the tigers face.
“We have to find new and different ways to inspire the next generation of conservationists,” says Pamela Baker-Masson of the Smithsonian. “If we can just get people to think about and to care about saving the Sumatran tiger, then that is just the beginning.”
Spoiler Alert: the first line of the song is “you don’t have to worry”. That lyric may express a wish for the tigers, but it also serves as a reminder to listeners to share the message in hopes of a future free from worry for animal lovers, conservationists, and activists. Here is the song.