An Interview with Kathleen Dean Moore



On Saturday, February 27 at 7 p.m. at Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st Ave, Portland, 350PDX will present Kathleen Dean Moore and Rachelle McCabe performing “In a Time of Extinctions, a Call to Life.”  This unique program interweaves Moore’s evocative words with McCabe’s expressive piano interpretation of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Variations on a Theme of Corelli” to create an empowering call to action in extraordinary times.

A philosopher, teacher, author and activist, Moore has always been drawn to the power of music and its ability to reach directly and wordlessly into the human heart.  As faculty colleagues at Oregon State University, she and Rachelle McCabe, an internationally known concert pianist, participated in several interdisciplinary seminars investigating, through a variety of disciplines, specific topic such as love, evil and the meaning of music.

In 2010 Moore edited and published Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, which “gathers the testimony of one hundred of the world’s moral leaders – theologians and religious leaders, scientists, poets, business leaders, activists, and philosophers. Together they present a compelling call to honor our individual and collective moral responsibilities to the planet.”(1)  Convinced of the urgency of action in the face of extinctions and of the power of art to reach through societal divisions and call to the human heart, she began thinking of ways in which art might carry empowering messages related to environmental crises.  When McCabe, a skilled concert pianist, played Rachmaninoff’s “Variations on a Theme of Corelli” the two of them realized they had found the perfect framework on which to weave a performance.  Rachmaninoff wrote the piece while in exile, and one can hear in it the longing for a restored relationship with a beloved place.  Moore began to write prose in response to the music, and she and McCabe collaborated, laughing and crying, as they worked to create the final piece.


The original title was “Variations of a Theme of Extinction: Rage, Rage Against the Dying.”  Moore realized, however, the importance of moving past rage and toward action, noting that “We are living in an extraordinary moment and we have a job to do.”(2)  Hence the title became “In a Time of Extinctions, a Call to Life.” The program offers three things we must do.  And, Moore says, we must do all of them in response the challenges of extinctions on our planet.  Listening to Moore’s words, sometimes spoken in the silence between variations, sometimes underscored by McCabe’s exquisite playing of Rachmaninoff’s music, the audience is both called and empowered to become part of a community of caring.  In our response to a crisis of moral urgency, we begin to see who we might become as human beings and how we can become our better selves.


Tickets to the performance, which is a benefit for 350PDX, are available at the door and online at  The program offers a both different kind of artistic experience and a call to life.  As Moore reminded me, Nietzsche suggests that, “We have art in order not to die of the truth.”(3)  If you think you know everything about climate change, think again.  If you think there is nothing individuals can do, the performance offers a path toward becoming part of a community.  Past audience members, both those who have been working on the challenges of extinctions and climate change for years and those who know very little about these issues, have reported being “deeply moved by the power, eloquence, wisdom, urgency and insight of the presentation.”  It is “not an intellectual experience, but rather a revitalization of the emotional connection to the planetary emergency.” (4)  We hope to see you there.


  1. from Moore’s website,
  2. from author interview 4/28/15
  3. from author interview 4/28/15
  4. emails from audience members

by Kathleen Worley