Friday, November 27, 2020

Musical Life after Covid

Musicians have been engaging in musical life during the pandemic because it is what we do. Teachers have been teaching, students have beeen practicing, professional musicians have been practicing, and a fortunate relative handful have been playing masked concerts that are broadcast over the internet. Musicians with computer skills and the equipment to compile distanced videos have been compiling and sharing. Composers have been composing, and arrangers have been arranging.

Aside from not making money from playing concerts and playing weddings, not being able to play chamber music when the weather outside is cold or rainy, not being able to rehearse for community concerts with my piano partner, not being able to play duets with my students and friends, not being able to meet with my Renaissance group, not being able to have Summer Strings or Holiday Strings, and not being able to hear other people play in real time and space (not translated into soundwaves through a microphone and then translated by via speakers), my musical life hasn't changed that much. I actually have had more contact with musicians in far-away places than before, simply because remote contact is now the norm rather than exception.

Festivals and conferences, which are basically ways of allowing musicians in specific areas of interest to interact socially and musically, have been happening online. They might even continue to have an online component after the pandemic so that people without the financial means to travel (flying with instruments is never fun) can participate. Many of our musical worlds have even expanded during this time. Symphony orchestras, both "major" and "minor" have expanded their future repertoire to include more music written by women, people of color, and people who are living. This is all good.

There is so much music available to listen to online that it is difficult to "keep up" with all that is new and all that has been rediscovered. We are "directed" through our devices by musicians and promoters towards performances and premiers of interest, and many listeners who are not practicing musicians (and some who are) set aside time to watch these recorded performances with the same kind of excitement they would have if they were going to an in-person concert.

But when it is safe to go to concerts again, will people go? Will people in America show up for concerts played by "lesser known" musicians in smaller cities and towns? Will they go to concerts given by professional orchestras that have music they don't know on the program? Will audiences still be hesitant to spend their evening listening to "new music" for fear of encountering atonality? (Incidentally I haven't encountered much in the way of atonality in the internets during this Covid isolation. Has extra-musical life of late been simply so absurd that people crave harmony?)

I shared this photo on Facebook with the caption "Haydn for Biden," to which a violist friend responded, "But will Biden be for Haydn." Let's hope that non-pop music and the musicians who play it, sing it, and write it will be included in the "building back better" chapter of the American future.

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