Response to COVID CONFUSION: FINDING A WAY THROUGH? (Andrew Hodges)


Dear Andrew,

Thank you for the articulate post of May 30, 2020 - COVID CONFUSION: FINDING A WAY THROUGH? "It's like trying to complete a jigsaw without a picture on the box.”

Recently, like so many, I witnessed profound contradictions: A billionaire’s spaceship brilliantly launched while Corona mask-clad protesters burned police cars all over America. Another sad day for us all.

Like you and so many others, I am trying to visualize a complete jigsaw, but I think it is futile. The interlinking pieces are too varied – pandemic, economic, domestic, political, global – and it appears to be spiraling out of control.

After 10 weeks of social isolation, I’ve finally been able to calm my mind and nervous system enough to begin working on a new book about the relevance of soundwork during challenging times. As I research, it appears that common denominators of music in times of crisis include:

• Making music as a means to regain a sense of control

• Music as communication to express emotions and fears 

• To increase social cohesion

• To direct human attention

• To help sustain a connection to pre-crisis identities 

• Neurologically, music heightens a sense of human connectedness.

Prof Emery Schubert is the Head of UNSW’s Empirical Musicology Laboratory in the School of the Arts & Media (Sidney, AU). He specializes in emotion and music and the scientific study of music aesthetics. He says, 

"One of the great powers of music, as supported by much research in recent years, is that it can be so highly absorbing, metaphorically transporting the listener into a transcendent, spiritual place. And it can do so simply through the combination of sounds that make up the music." 


All of the above descriptors of the power of music and sound are known to most professional soundworkers. We know, currently there is an aching need we can fill. As per Andrew's article, the problem is one of safety in times of multiple unknown factors. To this, I would like to suggest that we begin to use a contextual filter of 'pre-covid' and 'post-covid.’ While we are not yet ‘post-‘, we definitely are no long pre-covid. I don’t think that we will return to a pre- state. In other words, the new normal is really going to be new. I believe the out-of-balance conditions that lay host for this corona virus will still exist even with new medical treatment or preventative interventions. In other words, not only do we have the effects of climate change, political manipulations, and lack of social justice to deal with, but epi- or pandemics may become part of our new normal. What do we do with this?

What do we do with a world of more vaccinations and social isolations?

Like you, as I bemoan the uncertainties of not having a picture on the puzzle box to help me fit all the pieces together, I do search for any upsides of a post-covid reality. What are we going to do if we can’t meet in person for awhile? Maybe for a year or two? Or less? How are we going to handle social isolation? 

As I consider this, what occurs to me is the phrase, necessity is the mother of invention. One of the things I notice is that all of a sudden, due to Covid-19, the big brains of high technology have a direct focus. Even though nothing can replace physical resonance, finding ways to be very creative with new tools may just have to work.

As a long-time soundwork instructor, who has long fought against online teaching, I've come to see that in the 21st Century, that we are now full throttle in, there are some things we are going to have to compromise with. I think that every generation goes through the tantrum of just not wanting to let go of certain things, while new things (born of human imagination and creativity) present. By not having personal resonance, we are being challenged to find ways to work with others that we are not comfortable or accustomed to. Yet, this is our challenge.

I was surprised recently by two personal utilizations of Zoom video conferencing. I had a significant birthday recently, and my three sisters insisted we meet on Zoom for a little party. I really resisted. But truthfully, after 45-minutes of their very creative use of that time, I had an overwhelming heartfelt experience that rivaled any other personal gathering. It was different, but we are in different times. Likewise, I’ve been taking a Buddhist meditation course online with hundreds of people and one great teacher. Not the same as sitting all together in one big room. I’d prefer that. But given the circumstances, I have been grateful and found great value in my time spent online.

I’m not suggesting that video conferencing is a substitute for heart against heart. I’m as lonely in this social isolation as anyone else. However, from an evolutionary vantage point, releasing the bias towards new ways of doing things, when we liked the older ways better, may bring surprises we cannot yet see. I want my students in a classroom, together in the flesh. I’ve spent decades learning how to create a great learning environment. Now, I have to do it again, but in a different way. I could throw a tantrum, but to what avail?  Who knows what Virtual Reality or Artificial Intelligence may offer to creatives (like sound workers or other artists), that because of our circumstances, we have to marry into a world that normally would put us off? Again, I have to talk myself into being open and having a good attitude EVERY day. But here we are… in a post-covid world looking for avenues of love and art and healing. We can’t go back. Forward is the only healthy game in town. 

All of the above is one man’s opinion and subject to change! In this time of uncertainty, who knows anything? But there is a liberating side to all of this… STAY HEALTHY, STAY STRONG, LISTEN DEEPLY, BE IN YOUR HEART.

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