This one wanders a bit, friends… stay with me…
When I was young, I wanted to learn piano. It wasn’t an auspicious start – the fellow my parents found to teach me was bent on me learning every German folksong ever written. You can only look at so many songs about füchse, hasen, und vögel des himmels before you want to go hunting. Yeah, it escalates quickly. Anyway, it was tedious and didn’t inspire my creativity which made me loathe to practice. Which made my mom’s head explode every day when I came up with a twitchy bladder that required me having to pee 17 times in half an hour. The horror. After a pretty hardcore battle of wills, the instructor fired me. After that, I started taking lessons elsewhere, and I eventually found myself in a Kiwanis Festival piano duet. I don’t remember practicing with my partner much, but we won a second place ribbon, so there’s that.
Fast forward. Earlier today, a co-worker had scheduled a midday calming meditation session for coworkers. We’re flat out right now with work stuff, nevermind the other worries gnawing at us. She volunteered to lead us in a half hour break from the frenzied pace. I joined the session a few minutes early and had a chance to chat with her a bit. I remarked that she always worked from home, so this wouldn’t be to much of a change to her day. She said that in some respects, no, but in others, it was definitely different now.
I thought about that. For some, having a 40 second commute to your home office is standard operating procedure. For others, like me, it was a nice perk to help flex days that had an appointment dropped into the middle, or when sleep is a thing that happens to other people, or it’s just more convenient to start evening plans without a rush-hour commute. So this is familiar, if not usual. But there are some for whom this self-isolation means something completely other. I was listening to an interview with Jeffrey Beecher today, and he was describing how the symphony is about community. There is the community of the audience that feeds the musicians with their energy and are in turn nourished by the music. And it takes a community of musicians to create the symphony.
So he made a symphony for music lovers in isolation by musicians in self-isolation. And it is magical.
There are other arts groups doing the same thing – it’s always extra impressive to me when there are the Brady Bunch grid of instruments or singers, perfectly synchronized.
A couple of my favourites (including the one that inspired this post):
Jeffrey Beecher (the fellow who also edited the Toronto Symphony Orchestra video) was talking about how he used astronauts as his inspiration. In his isolation, what did Chris Hadfield do? He picked up his guitar and starting channeling his inner David Bowie. Because music.
As more of us are pushed into self-isolation (or imposed quarantine, or under Shelter in Place orders), more of us are turning to music. Whether that means communities singing from their balconies, or folks like Choir!Choir!Choir hosting singalongs online, or musicians like Randy Bachman and Neil Diamond sit alone with a guitar recording single songs to share online. Garth and Trisha had a concert and were even taking requests. The point is, music makes us feel better.
So back to Chris Hadfield. When the temporary license for Commander Hadfield to broadcast himself singing Space Oddity expired (and was extended and then expired again), the issue was that there wasn’t a precedent for how copyright works in space. So, here on earth, Bowie and Team Hadfield and whomever else needed to be involved figured it out. It wasn’t just a single group or a single country that fixed the issue. Sometimes, it takes a global community to solve a problem.
See where I’m going here? Certainly, a (potential) copyright violation isn’t the same as the scourge of Coronavirus, but if everyone does something it matters. It doesn’t matter how small the effort is -like staying home, like protecting the immunocompromised, or, like sharing your creativity.
This Lent, may we all find the music in our hearts.
It’s pretty cool to see the International Space Station. You can see it without magnification, with your very own eyes (theoretically, depending on weather), travelling from the western horizon to the eastern horizon. Visit the Spot the Station website, and enter your location for local viewing times.