EDITORIAL: DOING THE RIGHT THING

Christopher Fox
2020 Tempo  
Because of TEMPO's quarterly schedule these editorials tend to avoid anything too topical but, regrettably, it seems likely that when this issue is published the world will still be dealing with the effectsmedical, social and economicof the Covid-19 pandemic. For musicians, as for everyone else, the pandemic has been a catastrophe: so many marvellous performers and composers struck down by the virus; all those cancelled concerts, festivals and premieres; the devastating financial impact of all
more » ... cial impact of all those lost fees. So how should we recover? How will we be beginning to recover when this issue arrives on people's screens or through their letter-boxes? The lockdown period quickly demonstrated how resourceful the musical community can be. Entire festival programmes migrated from the halls for which they were planned to an array of more or less suitable on-line platforms. But the cost was considerable, not only in the amount of time that the makers of new music had to devote to coordinating all the different elements of the new works that they were trying to salvage, but also in aesthetic terms. A work conceived for live musicians to rehearse together, then perform to a room full of people, is impoverished when the same material is multitracked and then presented on-line. The latter represents a triumph of human ingenuity, but it is little more than a shadow of what might have been. For this listener at least, the post-pandemic world must be one in which we celebrate liveness, not just the way music sounds in a real, rather than virtual space but all the attendant social interactions, between musicians, between musicians and audiences, and between audience members. Perhaps we may even become more critical of what is presented: is it really worthy of all the suffering and loss? The post-pandemic world will also be one in which everyone who understands that art is always the most vivid record of human achievement must be vigilant and active. We need to be vigilant because the lockdown experience has confirmed that people with vocations are very easily exploited. In the UK it was some of the least well-paid people, the workers in care homes, the nurses in hospitals, who suffered the worst trauma, watching so many of the people whom they were looking after die. The UK has had a shockingly high death toll during the pandemic, not because of the quality of care available but because the government was incompetent. But the government also knew that people in the caring professions will always do their job, because it is the life to which they are devoted. It has become easy to assume that, like care professionals, musicians will work for next to nothing. If they played for free during the pandemic why can't that continue? We need to be active in fighting for a new economic settlement for the arts, one that reflects the centrality of theatre, music, and all the other art-forms that depend on people coming together in large cooperative gatherings, because the lockdown has demonstrated that a society without these TEMPO 74 (294) 3-4
doi:10.1017/s0040298220000340 fatcat:mlvha6sv5fbfviuxrxd6u2srli