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INTRODUCTION BY BRAD EVANS

THREE WEEKS AGO, I was sitting in front of my computer at home trying to finish an essay on educating children. But I was unable to concentrate. A broadcaster with a notably concerned expression was reporting on the spread of the coronavirus, which was now advancing across mainland Europe. It was no longer a “Chinese problem,” which many had hoped to keep at a “safe distance.” Its effects were becoming a global issue. As the days passed, any concept of time I had was replaced by the rising tide of casualty statistics. I watched as the anxiety and concern spread almost as quickly as the virus itself.

I kept thinking about “domino” and “butterfly” “effects” and how radically interconnected we truly were. Admittedly ignorant to the science, I needed to find out more, but the “news” was no comfort. As nations started falling victim one by one to the virus, we all started coming to terms with the vocabulary of “lockdown,” “isolation,” and “quarantine.” Some undoubtedly responded in a more humane way than others.

Like many authors, I wanted to say something, partly I now see for my own sanity, but didn’t know where to begin. I just knew that I was becoming increasingly concerned, not only for the welfare of others, but of my loved ones, family, friends, and companions alike. Writing has always been my therapy to the horrors of the world. And I still maintain there is no better reason to write or express — in any medium — than to feel the world’s beauty and pain. But was it all simply too close or too reactionary?

There certainly was no shortage of reflections being offered. Everyone is now an expert, it seems, and yet never have we felt more in the dark about outcomes — even the most basic, questioning whether there will be enough food to go around. But I couldn’t find the words to do justice to this unfolding tragedy, except to repeat the warnings from history and the need to be vigilant to its political effects. I now see my inertia was revealing of a deeper fear and a sense of foreboding: that of being alone, writing alone.

 

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  • thinkers

The sky is falling

Once, Cat left home for a hunt. He was snooping around in the cabbage field and then suddenly just ㅡ uuuzht ㅡ a cabbage leaf fell on his tail. Frightened he thought: “Now certainly the sky is falling!” And began to run. He runs, spurts as fast as he can, and meets Rabbit.

Rabbit Babbit, run ㅡ the sky is falling! Who told you? It fell on the tip of my tail!

Rabbit also gets frightened and joins Cat. They run run and meet Fox. Rabbit cries:

Fox Tox, run ㅡ the sky is falling! Who told you? Cat Pat. Cat Pat, who told you? It fell on the tip of my tail!

Fox also gets frightened and joins them. They run run and meet Wolf. Fox cries:

Wolf Rolf, run ㅡ the sky is falling! Who told you? Rabbit Babbit. Rabbit Babbit, who told you? Cat Pat. Cat Pat, who told you? It fell on the tip of my tail!

Wolf also gets frightened and joins them. They run run and meet Bear. Wolf cries:

Bear Hear, run ㅡ the sky is falling! Who told you? Fox Tox. Fox Tox, who told you? Rabbit Babbit. Rabbit Babbit, who told you? Cat Pat. Cat Pat, who told you? It fell on the tip of my tail! Tell me, how was it? ㅡ asks Bear. I was snooping around in the cabbage field and then suddenly just ㅡ uuuzht ㅡ something fell on the tip of my tail! Was it big? As big as the rooster’s wing. You silly ㅡ says Bear ㅡ it was probably just a cabbage leaf. You all, go home! Perhaps it is true ㅡ agreed Cat ㅡ Now we can all go home without fear.

And everyone went home.*

  • *Lithuanian folk tale.
  • goda

Wednesday’s announcement by the government’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, that social distancing in the UK could last for the rest of the year is terrible news for anyone bar lavishly wealthy introverts, but professional musicians will be among the most acutely worried.

Decades of technological change have made musicians particularly reliant on live income. Once, you toured to promote album sales on CD, cassette or vinyl; now, streams of your album make you a pittance unless you are extremely popular, and are mainly promotional tool for tours. With venues closed – along with clubs and shops, where your music might have been playing, accruing you a little more royalty cash – a large part of your revenue is gone.

Spotify has acknowledged the new hardships facing musicians by adding a feature to the streaming service: a button that, if activated by the artist, allows users to directly donate to them via the digital wallet services Cash App and Paypal.me. Artists can also use the button to raise donations for coronavirus relief.

There’s more unpacking to be done here than in a Tesco loading bay during the crisis. First, that charity option has added needless moral quandary. The general perception of your average musician – a hangover from the better-remunerated CD era – is that they’re sitting around in clothes bought by their label, idly jotting down a chorus after a searching conversation with their French bulldog. For them to ask for fans’ money rather than making a charity plea will easily make them seem craven and selfish.

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Awaiting the iron outdoors cage that is De Nor again to open in 2070, we've asked a pile of guests to grand our ears and gemoedsrust with mixes of their stranger records or recordings! Lookie look what we have here, a fabulous mix by Kim Duchateau, or "Kim", infamous cartoonist for various newspapers and magazines, musician and ereburger van Sint-Truiden!

Dag buurman. Ca va? Maken de kinderen je nog niet zot? 

Nee, geen last van. Ze zijn erg flink gezien de omstandigheden. 

Ik heb de indruk dat jij weinig lijdt onder een lockdown omdat je sowieso al weinig uit jouw kot kwam, niet? 

Dat valt tegen. 

Kom je eigenlijk tot iets nuttig dezer dagen? 

Ik heb betonnen palen in de tuin kapot geklopt met een voorhamer en nu heb ik gaten in de tuin van 1 meter diep. Verder heb ik naar 'Mystic Pizza' en 'Steel Magnolias' gekeken. Ik ben de 'Lonesome Dove' serie aan het lezen omdat dat oneindig veel pagina's zijn.

Omdat er bijna geen vliegtuigen meer vliegen en de lucht nog nooit zo blauw is geweest, luister ik graag naar Willie Nelson's versie van 'Blue Skies' terwijl ik in mijn hangmat lig.

Slaag je er in om zelf muziek te maken? 

Ik had net een nieuwe versterker gekocht, vlak voor de lockdown. Het is erg leuk om daar op te spelen. 

Ik doe nu samen met mijn vrouw yoga en doe mee met mijn dochter met fitness-video's. Hoe zit dat bij jou? 

Ik ga vaker met de hond wandelen. Plus, ik heb die betonnen palen kapot geklopt en nu heb ik spierpijn en rugpijn.

Gaat de drankvoorraad goed vooruit? 

Ik was met Michiel Klein bezig met een interview over de nieuwe Lewsberg-plaat, maar die is uitgesteld 'omwille van het Corona-virus'. Tegelijkertijd zie ik dat pakweg Russell Haswell de afgelopen maand 12 albums op Bandcamp heeft gezet 'omwille van het Corona-virus', omdat mensen nu toch thuis zitten en tijd hebben om naar muziek te luisteren. Wat denk jij: is dit een goed of juist een slecht moment om met nieuwe muziek naar buiten te komen? Is er een overload? Brengen artiesten nu middelmatig materiaal uit dat beter in de kast was blijven liggen? 

Ze voorspellen een baby-boom over 9 maanden, maar nog erger gaat de platen-boom zijn. Alle platen opgenomen tijdens de lockdown. Ik kijk er niet naar uit. Daarna zal er veel minder nieuwe muziek uitkomen omdat alle muzikanten wegens gebrek aan inkomen ander werk hebben moeten zoeken.

Festivals gaan niet door maar gewone concerten terug wel vanaf mei. Ga je mee naar Sun Ra Arkestra, Dylan Carlson, Sunburned en Jackie Lynn, of ben ik te positief?
 

Dit is eerder een vraag voor Marc Van Ranst. Zelf vrees ik dat er niet veel bands gaan kunnen touren in mei vanwege gesloten grenzen en dat, als er terug concerten mogen doorgaan in België, het lokale acts gaan zijn. 

Joeri Bruyninckx

I first met Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson at the Nickelsdorf Konfrontationen Festival in 1999, where he was playing with the AALY Trio and I was doing a one-off trio with Jim O’Rourke and Christian Fennesz. I had already been hearing about Mats from Jim as someone else of our generation coming to free jazz from a punk-rock background. A couple of years later Mats invited me to a festival he was organizing in Ystad, Sweden. It was an amazing experience, involving people like Sonic Youth, Christian Marclay, and YoshimiO from the Boredoms. I fondly remember doing a trio with Mats and Peter Brötzmann where I went running to my amp to turn up, my usual volume no match for their acoustic saxes.

Since then Mats has led a couple of other powerful trios—The Thing and Fire!—and collaborated with many other artists, from Neneh Cherry to Merzbow. It’s been a while since we connected, and when the pandemic hit I noticed he was slated to play solo as part of Experimental Sound Studios’ superb series of livestreamed Quarantine Concerts. I’ve been fascinated by the development during this reconfigured reality of solo concerts being the only type to continue to be booked and promoted, solely online. I was excited to catch up with Mats and discuss these issues and others via Skype at his current home in rural Austria—the same town, in fact, where we first met.

—Alan Licht

Alan LichtSo have you been in Nickelsdorf since everything went haywire?

Mats GustafssonIt’s been an interesting journey, because I was on tour with Christof Kurzmann in South America when shit hit the fan. He’s in the high-risk group, because he had a couple heart surgeries, and he’s been smoking since he was like, two. When we left, this virus didn’t seem like a big deal, but traveling with Christof really changed my mind about that.

I have a feeling that we will work a bit differently in the in the future, and it will take a long time before we can start thinking about doing regular concerts again.

ALIt’s interesting—as musicians we’re used to “the show must go on.” People go onstage with fevers; I’m sure we’ve both done it. But with this everything shut down so quickly. People are getting more and more scared. It doesn’t make sense to do a show now if you can do it six months from now.

MGWhat surprised me is that in the EU every country has different rules. And Sweden had almost no limitations in the beginning.

ALYeah, there was an article in the Times about how Sweden was sort of the outlier in that way.

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