Photography: Scott Duffey / scottduffey.co.uk

Perspectives is a series of features that looks to document how the creative industry has been affected by the ongoing pandemic. Offering a view from within the audience, Conal Cunningham looks for the connective powers of music while the doors to venues continue to remain shut.

 

Conal Cunningham – Student & Writer

 

While Oasis’ 2005 single The Importance of Being Idle may have been a sardonic quip about the joys of laziness, the millions of us now thrust into a state of prolonged idleness may beg to differ.

Structureless and unfamiliar, everyday life at the moment can be anxious for some, surreal for many, and likely tedious for all. At least for me, while quarantined in indefinite inertia, the necessity of routine, of social interaction and leisure has never been so stark. Not a key worker nor able to work from home, the new norm is keeping myself occupied, answering the lingering daily thought: What to do today?

One constant that does keep my mind occupied throughout the day is music. Whether it is on my (dystopian sounding) government mandated exercise or simply relaxing in the garden, music has become one of my few elements of comfort amongst these strange times. It keeps me company, lifts my mood and transports me to better times gone by. Indeed, music is a medium that has been scientifically proven to correlate with emotion and the release of dopamine, suggesting why certain songs mean so much more to us than just something that plays in the background of bars, pubs and clubs. This evocative power seems all the more significant while stranded in isolation; music can give me the ability to transcend the present, reminding me of treasured memories and anticipating me for future events – all in the matter of minutes.

Due to the current situation, myself and the legions of music-lovers across the country have been temporarily stripped of the live music experience, unable to bask in those moments where artistry meets adulation, where chorus’ are echoed in unison by a thousand strangers. While these connections may have come to an abrupt and unfortunate halt, the numerous creative attempts to bridge this gap by a wide range of artists has been encouraging.

“The enduring power of music is something we often take for granted; it connects us to one another, moves us emotionally and soundtracks the milestones in our lives” Conal Cunningham

One of the most traction-gaining activities of our isolating times has been Tim Burgess’ Twitter listening parties – a phenomenon so popular it’s already confirmed a full listing of playbacks every day until June. Burgess has since tweeted that his website has been viewed over a one million times the past few weeks, highlighting the parties’ popularity. Essentially, the listener puts an album on at the same time as the artist and other fans. Through it you’re getting to hear not just the melody of the LP, but through Twitter, also the track-by-track analysis and anecdotes of the writing, recording and performing process from the artist. Experiencing this simultaneously by the thousands is truly a collective effort to use music to bring us together. Local heroes The Coral and The Lightning Seeds have hosted their own parties so far, with Bill Ryder Jones scheduled to dissect West Kirkby County Primary this Sunday.

Other efforts to use music as a connecting force has seen Greater Manchester combined authority team up with United We Stream to host a 12-hour stay-at-home rave party, with donations supporting the counties night-time economy. In a personal touch, artists such as Foals, The Orielles and Declan McKenna have all taken to Instagram Live to answer questions from fans, diminishing the usual distance between artist and audience.

There has also been a wealth of artist-curated isolation playlists, tuning you in to a plethora of new music, with Blossoms and Tom Misch releasing impressive covers of Frank Ocean’s Lost and Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much respectively. Misch, along with The Strokes, Yves Tumor, Laura Marling, Dua Lipa and Thundercat are but a few of the artists that have decided to weather the storm and release new music without delay. While these may not be the same as going to see your favourite artist live, they are certainly creative attempts to keep us connected to one another and to keep us entertained in a time where we are collectively house bound.

Without trying to sound too sentimental, the enduring power of music is something we often take for granted; it connects us to one another, moves us emotionally and soundtracks the milestones in our lives. In testing times, it is comforting to listen to old favourites and all the more exciting to hear fresh new sounds.

In the contemporary era, the ubiquity of technology and social media means we are never too far away from our loved ones, and as this lockdown has proven, nor our favourite bands or new, uncovered music either. While the importance of being idle has recently taken on an urgent medical significance, with music we are continually reminded of the joys in being comfortably idle with its art form.

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