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

Concert cancellations

Archive photo of the Fever Pitch singing Zen love Song at Purcell Room,
Southbank Centre in London in 2008.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, my concerts in the USA: Playing Zen Love Song by Roxanna Panufnik with Los Angeles Masters Chorale at Disney Hall on the 28th and 29th March https://lamasterchorale.org/faure-requiem and playing at the Vegan Dinner Concert at Sound & Savour, Philip Gelb’s amazing concept of music and food on the 3rd April in Oakland and “Enter the Bamboo” concert with Cornelius Boots in San Francisco on the 5th April have all been cancelled. The latter concert perhaps it is only my appearance that has been cancelled so if you are nearby you may still be able to see/hear some cool jinashi shakuhachi…. Also lectures have been cancelled. I had been looking SO MUCH forward to visit my paternal country, seeing family and friends + performing/lecturing! Such a disappointment… but the situation is grave and this was necessary! I hope to reschedule at some time!

New project

I will fly to Japan today to film regional shakuhachi players. I will start in Hirosaki, Aomori. Going there with film maker Delmar Mavignier and sound engineer Florian Siegmund. Can’t wait!

Frank Denyer’s new book and CDs

Frank Denyer is an English composer, who is like no other when it comes to his compositions. For us shakuhachi players, he is a very important composer due to his amazing collaboration with the just as amazing shakuhachi player Iwamoto Yoshikazu. Frank has also written a piece for me: “Woman with jinashi shakuhachi” and I love this piece. Frank has now published a book about his compositions and 2 CDs. If you are at all interested in what happens of very exciting music in the margins of new music today, the book and CDs may interest you. Read more about it here

Playing at the private viewing of the new exhibition on Buddhism at British Library (24.10.19)

I was invited to open the private viewing of the wonderful exhibition on Buddhism at the British Library with a very short performance. It was a great honour to play, and it was also very interesting to be part of the soundscape of this viewing which included monks and nuns from Thailand. The opening included speeches by Dame Carol Black, who is the Chair of the British Library and Lama Jampa Thaye from Sakya Dechen Ling Buddhist Centre, who is also a scholar. I was introduced to and sitting besides those people with my tengai on before my performance and during the speeches. When I began playing the first notes of Honte no Shirabe drew everybody’s attention and the atmosphere changed to a soft but very attentive space. I was only given 1 1/2 minute so I couldn’t even finish Honte no Shirabe. The atmosphere was very pleasant so it was hard to force myself to stop. I enjoyed it so much.
It was furthermore interesting to explore the anonymity of the fact of wearing tengai. Normally when I have performed there will be people coming up and commenting or at least look with acknowledgement towards me. After changing nobody recognised me as the player. That was very interesting to feel. I managed to enjoy my anonymity.


Autumn: Shakuhachi contemplation and harvesting

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year when everything slows down in preparation for winter. I find this time of the year a good opportunity to have a contemplative attitude in my own life, slowing down, playing more shakuhachi, meditating more and sense the season by harvesting the abumdance of treats both for the stomac and the eye. Tonight the vegetable garden group at the meditation centre will have a harvest gathering.