Music, networks and the pandemic

Just after sharing my last news update in early March, the coronavirus pandemic quickly escalated here in the US, including extreme but necessary social isolation measures. This picture is “artisanal toilet paper” that my creative wife made from slicing a paper towel roll in 3 – a bit rough around the edges but functional. (It took us several days to even get paper towels, and TP is still nowhere to be found.) Our problems are minimal, though: Even though many of my plans for the coming months have been cancelled, I am more fortunate than many musicians because I have a stable job as a university professor.

I also have many years of experience in networked music making, an area that is suddenly getting broader interest. Along with many other people in the networked music community, I’ve been in tons of conversations recently with musicians who are curious about what is possible. For several years, I’ve shared a doc called Notes on telematic music production on this site, and I just updated and expanded that doc as a way to answer those questions in one place [update April 10: please see the page Networked Music Performance Resources for that doc as well as a new video series on this topic]. The short version is that amazing results are possible in the right conditions, but not in reach for most people working from home due to the complexity of getting it all to work, as well as bandwidth limitations. If you think those caveats might not apply to you, or if you are interested in possibilities working through an institution once things return to some kind of normal, then see the doc for more details.

This is an especially hard time for experimental and creative music communities since so many of those musicians do not have institutional support. I encourage all music supporters with the means to find ways to help independent musicians and others who are struggling to survive, including purchasing their music directly on Bandcamp and finding other support groups that are working hard to keep everyone up to date like the resources list from Springboard for the Arts and advocacy groups like NYC Covid-19 Musician Resources and Support.  I also send out my deepest thanks to the many service workers and especially the front-line health care workers who are risking their lives to protect us all. I hope everyone can stay safe, stay at home, and stay hopeful!