So, it’s been a while since my last post. Since March, the places and events where we share music have been closed, postponed, cancelled. It has been such a hard time for touring musicians and venue owners, and also for their patrons. And yet, many of us are finding ways to share music.
I have watched some great live stream concerts with virtual tip jars. I’ve participated in an on-line song circle – not exactly a jam since only one of us plays at a time, but still nice to have conversations and see familiar faces. To celebrate Hillside Festival , we watched pre-recorded videos of some wonderful performances and then had a small number of people – nicely distanced – around a campfire. Coming up next weekend is Play Music on the Porch Day – I envision people playing music from their balconies, front steps, driveways, and filling their neighbourhoods with music. (Visit http://www.playmusicontheporchday.com/ to learn more or to add your location to the music map)
It is clear to me that, even though current times has made it difficult to gather, live music is as important as ever:
The ability of music to lift spirits in times of uncertainty and grief.
The role of music in amplifying the call for human rights and solidarity.
The social interactions that are created and nurtured by making music together.
To quote songwriter and performer Alysha Brilla: “All these shut downs have confirmed the sneaking suspicion I’ve had my whole life that gathering together with music, dance and celebration are one of the best parts of the human experience.”
What can we do to help our musical community weather this storm? If you have stayed employed through the pandemic and have the means, consider making a donation to your favourite arts organization or festival. Support a musician by purchasing their music or buying a ticket to a virtual concert. Check in with someone you would have normally seen at a jam or song circle, share a story or maybe a song they are working on. Share your music whenever you can.
How have you been keeping your musical connections alive? Share ideas, links, upcoming events in the comments.
Hillside Festival (in its 34th year) is my favourite event of the year – a weekend of fabulous food, music and community – and this year my contribution is to run a group singing workshop. So many benefits of singing together and such a fitting place to celebrate this.
Thank you to everyone who took a precious festival hour and shared it with us at the singing workshop. For those of you who attended the workshop (and maybe even those who didn’t), you might be interested in having some of the links and resources I mentioned. Here they are:
All Together Now – workshops, women’s choir, co-ed choir, women’s music weekend
Choir Nation – has drop in choir groups in Toronto, Niagara and Hamilton
Choir! Choir! Choir! – drop-in group singing that also does lots of performing (Clinton’s Tavern, Toronto)
Choir Place – helps you find a choir (international)
Sing Out – supports and promotes traditional and contemporary folk music
Research on the benefits of singing:
Singing & Health – research review
Singing Changes your Brain – article in Time magazine
The Neurochemistry of Music – Mona Lisa Chanda & Daniel Levitin
While it has taken me a long time to finish this book, I have really enjoyed it. Reading How Music Works is like having a rich conversation with David Byrne about what music does for people and what people have done with music. Byrne describes the role of music, from earliest communication to ritual and religion to selling records, as an integral part of being human. For fans of his music, there are plenty of references to his creative journey, from busking alone to Talking Heads to making a building into a musical instrument.
“We don’t make music – it makes us. Which is maybe the point of this whole book.” (p.162)
Each chapter focuses on a different facet of music – the creative process, performance, collaboration, technology, business – drawing on diverse disciplines and musical traditions to show how much music is woven into our lives. In addition to discussing the gifts of the incredibly talented, the innovators and the birth of a “scene”, Byrne also talks about more mundane issues like funding and accessibility. Financial support can bolster an elite, conservative view of the arts or create meaningful social change in reducing barriers to participation.
“Music as social glue, as a self-empowering agent, is maybe more profound than how perfectly a specific song is composed or how immaculately tight a band is.” (p.314)
While the whole book is about connections, the last chapter brings it all together by linking musical intervals, mathematical ratios, architecture, neurology, dance and visual arts. There seems to be nothing that music doesn’t touch.
(My thanks to Tony for the gift of this book!)
[How Music Works, David Byrne; 2012, McSweeney’s, San Francisco]
Dennis Napper is dedicated to bringing musicians and audiences together. In addition to hosting multiple open mics, he is now part of promoting live music at the Rhapsody Barrel Bar. Monday night is “Industry Night” – a chance for musicians to play a slightly more substantial set than you might get at a standard open mic venue (1/2 hour instead of 2-3 songs). It is a spacious venue with great sound. To sweeten the deal, snacks and everything on tap at the bar is $5 on Monday.
To sign up ahead of time, email Dennis at: [email protected]
If you’d like to come listen, check out the website or FB page.
[Rhapsody Barrel Bar, 179 King Street West, Kitchener; 5-11 pm, no cover, licensed]