Remember last month? In some ways, that seems like a lifetime ago.
To get a sense of the rate at which things have changed as the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, I realized with a shock that my last blog post about the MOXsonic festival was two weeks ago. In retrospect, the news that several Italian composer/performers being unable to attend now feels quite different to me, since the shelter-in-place rules and lockdowns are a part of the lives of many of us now. (Several of my Japanese acquaintances, who are facing similar circumstances themselves in the near future, have been quite curious about my situation, just as I was a few weeks back).
Since lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness is itself a form of self-care, I thought this might be a good time to share a few pointers to things out there that you might find worth investigating if you find your mobility limited. But the more I thought about it, I realized that it would be a lot better to present a few pointers and try to crowdsource a larger and more diverse list of possible futures, projects and diversions to delight and sustain you during these times. During our shared isolation, let’s see about sharing those things that connect us.
I’ll just start with a few of the things that I’ve spent some time with this last week and then step aside and invite your input; I hope that we can keep this blog post around to collect interesting pointers to work and performance, opportunities for learning, and ways to support each other. Although our own situations are all individual, I think there's a real opportunity here. So please - when you finish reading this, don't hesitate to share your own suggestions in the comments.
Musicians and Performers (Where the Rubber Meets The Road)
We're a community of makers and performers, so the first and most obvious place to begin is to talk about a devastating effect on many in our community (and that this will probably include a number of you reading this right now) - musicians and live performers generate most of their income by touring, and they're hard hit. Similarly, numerous venues great and small whose operating expenses depend on mounting performance and festivals are similarly affected. While we may not be in a state ourselves to contribute to them as we might like, one single and simple place to start a discovery of new work can begin with us.. It may be as simple as calculating the cost of the ticket you were planning to lay out for an upcoming performance and using that money to invest directly in the artists themselves - recordings, shirts, merch, or other things an artist may offer online.
You can also assist by making sure that one of your in-place artist friends reach a larger audience in a more humble and inexpensive way - by sharing your enthusiasm for their work with others on social media. It's not just the case that those musicians really need the visibility right now - it may be that if enough of us do this, we might be likely to discover some new work that might change our lives.
And - if you're in a position to do so - donate. Consider donating to the overwhelmed organizations who are suffering alongside the artists, and also those nonprofits that provide relief to musicians along with supporting the musicians personally. There are plenty of people who could use your monetary support - think of it as an investment in the world to which we will all return, at some point. Let us know who you're supporting. While the community of makers and performers is international, there is good you can do locally.
Lists of Resources
The scope of the change the pandemic has brought to our lives is such that you can be forgiven for wondering where to start - where you can go for help, good advice, or information about initiatives you can support as we shelter in place. An interesting and unexpected resource for me recently has, believe it or not, been my email. Lots of the organizations whose mailing lists I'm on have been sending me comforting emails to reassure me of how they're coping and what I can expect. Nearly everyone does, as you may have noticed.
But some of those emails have gone on to provide me with lists of online resources available during the time of crisis - local, national, and international as well. While some of those lists have chosen to do good by focusing on a smaller and more focused community (here's an example from a UK-based list of classical performers), sites such as Kickstarter, CDBaby, Splice, and even sites/zines like She Shreds or BOMB have leapt into the breach with collections of resources that collect information about grants, sources of legal and financial aid, opportunities for virtual performance, and medical and psychological resources on both regional and national/international scales. Sharing knowledge about where and who to ask questions to is essential knowledge. Got any great resources for the Max Community? Please share them in the comments section.
A Chance to Look Around And (Maybe) Learn Something New
For some of us, more time at home has meant an opportunity to do something that we haven't really had the time or inclination to try before. If that involves exploring Max/MSP, I've got a few suggestions, and hope that you'll be willing to add some more in the comments.
If you're really a beginner, I'd say that this would be a great chance to check out Matt Wright's amazing (and free) Max/MSP course on Kadenze.
There are other places to start that predate our current situation, of course - starting with the various Max tutorials that we've created on the Cycling '74 website (click here for a look at what's out there). You'll also find a listing of Max trainers as well.
Pay a visit to maxforlive.com and do a little deep-diving into the universe of Max for Live devices out there. Some are free, some are not, but I'll wager that there'll be something there of interest.
Outside of Cycling '74's own undertakings, there are several Facebook pages out there that may be of interest to you. You can start with the Facebook Max and Gen groups, and - if you've got some money to spend - move on to the Max/MSP Learning Materials and Products Facebook page - a repository of commercial content, products, online classes or tutoring, Patreon and designer support platforms, and other initiatives. And - as you might well imagine, there's a Reddit zone. On Instagram, you'll find not only our own c74connect page, but pages by other folks, as well (I think I've done more searching since I've started my shelter-in-place than ever).
Got any more suggestions? Have you decided to teach your kids, partner, or parents how to patch? What resources are you using? Add 'em to the comments!
You're Comped In To Virtual Performances All Over
Let's face it - at some point you're probably going to tire of binge-watching the Nth season of <insert series of your choice here>, and start longing for those gigs that used to war with the aforementioned binge-watching for your "What's doing tonight?" activity roster. You're using your daylight hours for listening to awesome podcasts, or nice long playlist sessions on Mixlr from one half of Autechre and that sort of thing, but when the night comes, where can you go to see/hear something new?
The truth is that you've had a lot of options out there long before all this happened, and they're out there waiting for you to discover them - for the first time or for a return deeper dive.
Twitch.tv has, from its beginnings, dedicated itself to aggregating live streaming of nearly every variety of electronic music out there. It's your one-stop microgenre viewing solution - as an example, the founders of Coaxial Arts in L.A. Have their own Experimental Half Hour that documents past performances. And you can always take a break from the live gigs to watch someone playing your favorite run-and-gun splatterfest Playstation 8 outing! Just type nearly anything into the search window and you'll be off to the races.
For a slightly more curatorial approach, you're not limited to Billboard or National Public Radio's idea of virtual opportunities out there (interesting as they may occasionally be). Venues such as the Issue Project Room or Roulette London's own Cafe OTO have extensive archives of amazing live performances at your fingertips right now. Chicago's Experimental Sound Studios is beginning a performance series of their own hosted performances - The Quarantine Concerts - that may contain something of interest to you.
I'll leave you with one current example that I've found to be a near-perfect mix of the curated online "festival" combined with ways to support the artists involved that's much more focused on the experimental/improv side of things. Jon Abbey, who runs Erstwhile Records, has curated several festivals of the kind of performers the label releases, each of which are referred to as the AMPLIFY festival. While the festivals themselves are ephemeral events, many of the live performances make their way into the label's catalog (If you're a fan of Keith Rowe's experimental guitar work, they're your go-to destination, full stop). This year, everything is different, and so is the AMPLIFY 2020: quarantine festival. For one thing, it's all online - starting on March 20, a series of brand-new curated performances from sound artists around the world were (and are) periodically posted. The recordings are available for download and totally free - their blogspot site is a list of the pieces published so far along with direct links to send musicians (or the organizations of their choice) money, in the hopes that this will make it easier for listeners to help musicians directly. It's a heartening undertaking, and one I'm following with great interest.
I'm sure there are a whole lot more great places to visit and things to see and to hear. I'd love to hear of any EU or Pacific Rim resources you think would be worth a look by the rest of us - add your suggestions in the comments, please!
Learning To Stream (For Fun and Profit)
One of the people out there aggregating COVID-19 information is Cherie Hu, who created the Virtual Events Music Directory. In addition to being a good resource (particularly for its list of tools that artists and speakers can use to host virtual shows, panels and meetups), she spends a little time on one of the interesting side-effects of the pandemic: a possible seismic shift in the way that we think about performance and place. Her point is simple: while livestreaming is not a perfect emotional, cultural or financial substitute for real concerts, it's become an imperative for accessibility now, and this might be a good time to think of livestreaming as a possible catalyst for innovation going forward.
Sure - I've just spent some time running down places where you can watch. But how about considering yourself as a contributor instead of an audience member? You've probably got some time on your hand, and maybe an itch to start a new project or learn something new. Here are three great places to start, and one of them (and it'll soon be two of them) are right here on the Cycling '74 site.
- My colleague Florian has recently authored a positively kick-ass introduction to how to stream your Max patch using Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) that's fun and easy. And my Jitter-wizard colleague Rob Ramirez (who has emerged during Brooklyn's Safer at Home period as the most patient Tai Ch'i teacher ever, to my surprise and delight) is going to be following up in the very near future with a companion article on streaming your Jitter work, as well (I'll link to it when it goes up, don't worry).
- Kyle King from Minneapolis' Slam Academy has an amazing tutorial on how to stream using Twitch, Facebook, or Youtube that's well worth your time.
- And last but not least our pal Peter Nyboer at Sensel has a great video on setting up livestreaming using OBS and YouTube.
I hope that these encourage you to consider entering the stream yourself. The world is always in need of more good work, and that's so now more than ever.
It's Your Turn
So there are a few of the things to which I've turned during my extended home stay. But they reflect my interests and my own admittedly limited view. I'm hoping that each and every one of you reading this in places far and near will help me/us out by posting suggestions/links to things that you find beautiful/the stuff of contemplation/worthy of praise and the investment of attention wherever you find yourself.
What's out there that moves you?