Obviously it’s been a very strange time, with many events and projects cancelled, postponed, and often still hovering in some sort of suspended animation, with uncertain but somehow still hopeful futures. This was supposed to have been one of the busiest spring schedules I’ve had in a few years, with lots of globetrotting and some exceptionally exciting work with some of my very favourite musicians. Some of that has been rescheduled; some will still need to wait until international travel and collaboration is possible again. The excitement was replaced with an overwhelming sense of loss and uncertainty.
I know I’m very lucky to be in a position where my academic job is one that allows me to ‘work from home’, and that my livelihood as a musician (and my ability to just keep the lights on and keep food on the table) isn’t dependent, at least in the short-term, on live concerts. My wife’s performance calendar has taken a massive hit this year, but again we’re aware that, in the big picture, we’ve been very fortunate.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all the performers, composers, and artists whose lives have been upended by these last few months—and I’m angry that the lottery of nationality and occupation has meant that some have survived and have been reasonably well supported, whereas others are facing exceptionally frightening and thoroughly existential crises, for reasons to do with nothing other than luck. I’m fully aware that my own career as a composer—and indeed as an academic—has been built off of the work of freelancing musicians, and I’m angry that the governments in my native and adopted homes have done so little to keep the music world alive. I’ve done what I can politically to change that, and to offer financial and institutional support where I can, but still the personal, economic, and artistic devastation is unfair and unacceptable, and I’m embarrassed by the distorted values and misplaced priorities that have been projected by those governments this year.
One of the great joys of my year so far was the experience of being in rehearsals and recording sessions as a conductor with Ensemble Musikfabrik in early March in Cologne, just as the coronavirus stories started taking over the front pages of the newspapers in Germany. I don’t get to do as much of that sort of direct, participatory, collaborative music-making as I’d like, and this particular opportunity was as unexpected as it was rewarding. (I sightread one of the pieces in the first rehearsal, having only been asked to conduct my colleague’s work a few minutes before the rehearsal started—thankfully there was a spare copy of the score in the ensemble’s office.) I love the energy and focus and camaraderie and shared risk of rehearsing more than just about anything else—and the violent juxtaposition of that sort of joyful, shared musicking with the quiet, distanced isolation of the pandemic lockdown was particularly jarring. But the now three-month-long suspended fermata of that juxtaposition has been useful, too: it’s made me reevaluate a bit, and I’m going to do everything I can to make that kind of active, shared music-making, through conducting and performing, a much more central part of my life again. (All reasonable offers considered.)
I hope it is not too long before we’re all back making music together, rehearsing and singing and performing and listening, even if at a bit more of a distance than before. If anything, these last few months have been a really important, timely, if also devastating reminder of just how important that is.
Ensemble Musikfabrik. Mediapark, Cologne, Germany. March 9, 2020. Self-Portrait, 1996 (wp) and The wreck of former boundaries (clarinet)
Mixtur Festival, Barcelona. April 17, 2020. Self-Portrait, 1964 for fixed media electronics. Postponed until September due to Covid-19. ELISION. ISCM World Music Days, Christchurch, New Zealand. April 29, 2020. Self-Portrait, Three Times, Standing (15.3.1991–20.3.1991) Postponed to 2022 due to Covid-19. ELISION. Melbourne Recital Centre, Australia. May 2, 2020. Self-Portrait, Three Times, Standing (15.3.1991–20.3.1991) Plus recording session on May 1 for Kairos for release in 2020. Postponed due to Covid-19.
Tyler Boque, Ensemble Alinéa. Video recording for the Everything But The Kitchen Sink Zoom Summer Festival. Broadcast July 17, 2020. I, purples, spat blood, laugh of beautiful lips
Carl Rosman, Ensemble Musikfabrik. Video recording for the Musikfabrik Lockdown Tapes series. June 12, 2020. To be published later this summer (
I’m “Tape #43,” so it’ll be awhile Now up here, along with a really lovely text from Carl Rosman about the backstory of our first interaction.). metallic dust
Carl Rosman, Ensemble Musikfabrik. ‘Concertini 13’ Mediapark, Cologne, plus livestream. July 23, 2020. metallic dust
Events will be added/amended/deleted as details are confirmed.
Conductor, Ensemble Musikfabrik, “Extended Bodies, Uncanny Beings,” Mediapark, Cologne, Germany, March 9, 2020. Works by me and Mary Bellamy
Conductor, Ensemble Musikfabrik—recordings for HCR and Kairos,
to be released in 2020 (postponed to 2021 due to Covid-19). Mediapark, Cologne, Germany, March 8, 2020. Works by me and Mary Bellamy Conductor, ELISION Ensemble [postponed to 2022 due to Covid-19]
ISCM World Music Days, Christchurch, New Zealand
29 April 2020
works by Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Shuhan Hu, Miyuki Ito
Conductor, ELISION Ensemble0 [postponed due to Covid-19]
Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne, Australia
2 May 202
works by Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh and John Aulich
Guest Lectures and Masterclasses We All Live On Zoom Now
University of California, Santa Barbara, interview for the ‘Language Lost’ course, Zoom interview with Andrew Watts, April 15, 2020, published online April 17, 2020.
Mixtur Festival, Workshop on Composition and Sound Experimentation, Barcelona, April 16–19, 2020. Lectures, masterclasses, private lessons, and reading session coaching. Postponed due to Covid-19. Melbourne University, May 6, 2020 Postponed due to Covid-19.
Alinéa Ensemble, Everything But the Kitchen Sink summer festival (‘Composers-in-(their)-Residence’), Zoom interview June 4, 2020, published July 17, 2020.
Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf, ‘A way of making ghosts’, Zoom presentation to the foundation’s artistic fellowship recipients, June 10, 2020, published online June 19, 2020.