Perhaps in a world in which we need our neighbors more than usual, in which a global drama plays out in our local grocery stores and on the streets where we live, the music and creative expression we turn to for rest, relief, entertainment, and even solace—that deepest of words—ought to be local as well.
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When all this is over, some of the things we used to take for granted will appear to us a novelties or great new ideas. My gosh, even the thought of something ever ending feels something like a novelty at this moment.
Safe human contact can only come through a screen or phone speaker or across a distance, which is a challenge that has produced a greater emotional efficiency in some interactions. It is no longer rude to turn away abruptly from someone one does not wish to see. (I hope we view this as rude again someday.) My text messages are clearer, I like to think.
A friend pointed out that some of the people he feels most sad for in this moment are those in love: some couples fell in love and shared a first kiss the day before quarantine. Some will find that they shared their last that day.
Each of those couples who are newly in love are learning about each partner’s emotions under duress (boredom and solitude provide a unique kind of duress, of course), the workings of one another’s minds, the songs and movies that they turn to when they need songs and movies. Every couple grows stronger when these are shared; couples forged in the stress of shared separation from one another may turn out to be profoundly strong. The music of this season of isolation will be their song.
Many of the things that we took for granted, that we thought of as part of our social landscape, are denied us right now, and as a result, the world we will return to will look and sound different in countless ways, tiny and large. My local newspaper chain (the one that published the column by my friend that I linked to above) ceased its print run last week; four weekly newspapers and a local entertainment guide closed up shop when faced with a suddenly devastated economic environment, and the publisher laid off the entire staffs of each publication. It is online only now. The papers were a local mainstay for almost fifty years. (I was a reporter for one of them for the local school board election campaign season twenty years ago. It was the third newspaper for which I’d reported.)
All of our restaurants are closed or are serving only as curbside take-out places. Many will not survive this season. The experience of deciding on a whim to eat at a restaurant and discover a local live band is closed to us. Local theaters are shuttered and local movie theaters are closed; some local movie theaters (Rosendale Theatre Collective) have started to sell tickets to subscribers online to live streams of first-run movies in partnership with the film producers, which is brilliant.
Many of my friends are musicians and are in bands that depend on those restaurants and theaters for gigs and income. Many musicians have started to offer live concerts from their locations under quarantine to audiences in quarantine.
There are many great bands here in the Hudson Valley: any given Friday night one can hear original compositions performed by accomplished musicians. Thanks to the streaming services, musicians can no longer rely on album sales for a livable income and the streaming services do not pay as much to small acts as album sales once did, so live performances have become ever more important.
As a result of the sudden disappearance of live venues, several of our local musicians have produced albums for sale online. I am certain that musicians around the world have started to offer their music through whichever online service—there are several—that they employ. Stand-up comedians are in the same predicament across the nation and have turned to every online outlet as well to find audiences and earn a living.
Several Hudson Valley artists sell their music through the service Bandcamp, which has one of the more pro-artist business models: 80%-85% per sale goes to the artist. According to Bandcamp, fans have bought enough music through the service that they have paid artists “$16.6 million in the past 30 days alone.”
Perhaps in a world in which we need our neighbors more than usual, in which a global drama plays out in our local grocery stores and on the streets where we live, the music and creative expression we turn to for rest, relief, entertainment, and even solace—that deepest of words—ought to be local as well. You know your local musicians: support them, even mention them in the comments below.
It does not get more local than personal friends. One friend, Shana Falana, released an album, “Darkest Light,” in October and was slated to appear at the renowned SXSW Music Festival in March, which was cancelled because of the pandemic. Appropriate for right now, her song, “Everyone Is Gonna Be Okay”:
Another local group, The Sweet Clementines, released a compilation album (looks at watch) last week, “From the Aether: 2006-08.” The collection features songs that one might hear at a live gig, such as “Mary Goes ‘Round”:
“Everyone Loves Ice Cream”:
There are several other friends who could be included here, and since we have all month at least, I’ll continue to post about them. The point is that each one of us looks out today on a world that is suddenly unfamiliar, has gaps where there used to be things like newspapers with familiar logos and reporters who are our neighbors, restaurants with live music written and performed by people who are our family members or co-workers, booksellers that hosted live events.
The creative people who will build the next restaurants, write the new journalism, compose the new music, they are out there now. This is a world-changing moment we are in at the moment, and we need all the voices to help us understand it as we can find.
The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 3 asks us to reflect on the word, “Song.”
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