Orchestrating Isolation: Musical Interventions and Inequality in the COVID-19 Fallout

Photo of the Robuki Wave video made by the WSF22 team

Online event: June 22 2020, BST 3 pm – 6.30 pm
organised by Shzr Ee Tan, Royal Holloway University of London
and Kiku Day, Aarhus Academy of Music/ University of London with support from the Institute of Musical Research

[This event has been re-themed and revised in format from an earlier conference, now postponed till 2021, on ‘Racialised Performance in Western Classical Music’, organised by Shzr Ee Tan & Maiko Kawabata.]

‘Orchestrating Isolation: Musical Interventions and Inequality in the Covid-19 Fall-out’ calls to attention the devastation caused by COVID to music practitioners and researchers in precarious labour and education, even as we mourn the traumatic losses of artists, scholars and teachers to the disease. It is interventionist while remaining reflective in its commitment to not simply ‘waiting it out’ at a time when the world is no longer going to be the same again, in spite—or because—of the fact that basic systems of society continue to run, tenuously and miraculously at unimaginable costs: COVID-19-related racism, inequality in healthcare provision, economic impacts of industry shutdowns (not least music and live entertainment), closing of national borders; devastation of livelihoods.

What can and should (ethno)musicologists, musicians, composers do? We do not simply ‘press pause’, but rethink the way we make, write (about) and teach music. While we acknowledge that things cannot go on as before, we remember that in the pre-2020 world, there already existed complex, musical global challenges whose need for addressing should not be diminished a force majeure event. We are committed to exploring how inequalities and (incl. race- and class-based) marginalities intersect with evolving catastrophic developments that are not as society-levelling as imagined.

We ask:

  1. How has COVID changed musicking, research and teaching across borders along new baselines of re-levelled virtuality? In the rush to embrace online music, how do we deal with digital inequalities and censorship?
  2. What are the cultural differences in home-based musicking, as well its eventual remediation online? Where do issues of privacy and unequal access to home performance spaces fit into debates?
  3. Are there cultural differences in reading musical ‘gesture’ across a screen?
  4. In re-introduced live performance, how do differing ideas of musical social distancing across geocultural and class contexts prevail?
  5. What is the potential re-levelling of representational input of diverse voices in a virtual context?
  6. What is impact on the recruitment of international students to music programmes?
  7. How has the closure of national borders affected jobbing musicians?
  8. How have intersectional politics played out on COVID-related racial aggressions against East Asian and POC musicians?

This event will feature keynote speaker-performers Jennifer Koh and Kiku Day.

For a full lineup of the event and for registration, please visit here

or contact shzree.tan@rhul.ac.uk

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