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This Climate Scientist Has a Surprising Solution for DC’s Anxiety Problem

Ambient music and chill, guys.
Taylor Jordan is a climate scientist by day, ambient piano musician by night. Photo by Josh Yospyn.

Taylor Jordan, a full-time climate scientist and trained classical pianist, has big plans for his upcoming self-released album. On November 20, Jordan, whose stage name is the Greatest Hoax, a tongue-in-cheek nod to Senator Jim Inhofe’s book about global warming, will release an ambient suite called Enso. He hopes its down-tempo beats will be exactly what DC needs to ease its go-getter energy.

Originally from Longview, Texas, Jordan has played piano since the age of eight. He grew up performing at weddings and parties, and idolizing classical composers Sergei Rachmaninoff and Frederic Chopin. He got into hard rock as a teenager, and by the mid-2000s, he was creating his own music, blending synth-pop with the rigid classical structures he learned as a kid. He studied music composition at the University of North Texas and later got a masters of science in climate from Johns Hopkins University. In 2011, he moved to DC, on a whim, he says, to work as an intern on Capitol Hill.

He now advises climate science policy for the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, where he has a front row seat to intense global warming debates. So when he gets home after working 11 or 12 hours, the 28-year-old needs to unwind. That’s when he takes to the piano and writes compositions.

“Music is the one place where I can relieve some stress, where I can calm down,” he says. “[Climate change] is a pretty serious subject of course, but I just wanted to do something completely opposite.”

In 2014, he released Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, two albums of straightforward piano solos. His forthcoming LP, however, is something entirely different. His new work is full of warped piano melodies and airy synthetics. The recordings were run through old tape machines, giving Enso a muted, lo-fi aesthetic. Think Brian Eno, avant-garde composer William Bansinski, or A Winged Victory for the Sullen.

Jordan wrote Enso’s seven songs after a bad breakup. “I was really alone and had a lot of anxiety from that,” he says. “I had to relearn how to live in a city. So I just took to the piano. I couldn’t say certain things, so the piano said them for me. I can’t write music, or write it well, when everything is fine in my life. I need heartbreak. I need depression.”

“Taylor is an excellent writer,” adds Jon Zott, Jordan’s producer, who is based in Detroit and has also worked with DC R&B vocalist Yellokake. For Enso, the pianist wrote seven or eight parts for each track, then the two worked together in forming them into song structures. “We were always working on simplifying,” Zott says.

Going forward, Jordan wants to loosen up a bit–create more free-formed music and perform some local shows. He’s finalizing a live set and expects to start performing in November.

Maybe his first gig can be on America’s frontyard. That’s where it’s needed most, he says, so lawmakers can relax and stop arguing: “If we could blare it over the loudspeakers on the Mall that’d be great.”

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