Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Music for Healing: Toledo’s Heavy Color scores documentary

Image courtesy of Jacob Knoblaugh

Transcendent is a lofty word to apply to a piece of music, or its songwriters. But one really can’t resist the word when listening to a piece by Heavy Color— the Toledo-based avant-psychedelia/electronica duo made up of songwriters, producers and multi-instrumentalists Ben Cohen and Sam Woldenberg.

Their newest release is not your typical album, but instead a soundtrack. Actor Mark Ruffalo is the lead producer of a “paradigm shifting” documentary film, Invisible Hand, which showcases the Rights of Nature movement. The film is currently available to download or stream online. (via the film’s website

We talked with Heavy Color and asked about their opportunity to score this powerful film. 

Ben Cohen: In 2014, the Lake Erie Algae Bloom reached a critical point, and Toledo water was deemed unsafe for consumption or even showering due to rising lake levels of nitrogen from agricultural runoff pollution, among other factors.  Local activists formed Toledoans for Safe Water, a grassroots organization that crafted the Lake Erie Bill Of Rights. 

That became an inspiration to many around the globe resulting in the Rights of Nature Legislative movement which asserts that “natural ecosystems have an inalienable right to not only exist but to flourish.” The fight for the Lake Erie Bill of Rights is a central storyline in the film Invisible Hand, tying Toledo to the worldwide movement. 

How did this project come your way? Was there an audition process? 

Cohen:  I approached the directors of the documentary Invisible Hand because we were seeking ways to further align our artistic voice with the ideals (evident in the film).

I had seen some press about Invisible Hand and was inspired to reach out to offer our music for a future project. We were certainly surprised when Joshua from Invisible Hand responded by asking if we could write and produce the score in less than a month. 

Explain your approach to this project, in the sounds and vibe you chose, as well as in terms of the emotions that were stirred up while creating it…

Sam Woldenberg: It felt like pretty heavy subject matter. The approach of finding an underlying holistic narrative to guide the music made the project an emotional journey of sorts.

Working with Public Herald (film producers) and Curious Music (album producers) made the generative process fresh, exciting, and collaborative. To have that kind of cooperation and support is special and we all share the common goal that we can accomplish something good with this work and enact real change or help spark action. 

Why was it important for you to commit to this project? To be the devil on your shoulder, there’s plenty of incentive for an electronic music artist to make dancebeats and try to get virally-popular. 

Woldenberg:  We want to be part of the solution. The world feels very heavy. We think music has an incredible capacity to heal.

Cohen: There are so many ways the arts connect with us as emotional beings. We have been striving to find a balance between making work that we find personally interesting but is perhaps more esoteric and projects that are rooted in tangible issues that align with our ideals that can help manifest real change.  It is important for us to use our platform, however small, to help shine light on injustice and offer whatever hope we can. Being a member of the Earthwork Music Collective has been an ongoing inspiration to keep that alignment front and center as a guiding principle.

The soundtrack for Invisible Hand is now available via Curious Music as CDs, followed by vinyl copies in January. For more information visit

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