At 37 years old, it was a surprise to me that I could write. Sure, I’ve written my share of grade-school musings and academic papers like most everyone else, but since college, writing has taken the form of email correspondence and social media posts – not what you’d call stellar reading material. Then, one day in March of 2020, after all of my artistic plans and aspirations as a classical composer were paused overnight, I lost the will to practice piano or compose music. What was the point? Who would hear it? How could my music be considered relevant to anyone when hospitals were being overrun in New York City, my friends were losing their jobs and members of my community were falling ill and passing away? It was a bleak time for the world. I don’t have to tell you – you were there, too. We all were. In the months that followed, I focused on caring for the health of my family and friends and holding onto my livelihood.
Though musical expression didn’t feel appropriate to me at the time, all that creative energy had to go somewhere or else it would spiral inward. I often think that this is why there is such a strong historical connection between the arts and madness. Just think of Vincent van Gogh, Robert Schumann or Edgar Allen Poe for the artistic archetype. Every artist I know has a wealth of whirling energy built up within them, and until they find a mode of expression, it seems as if it could burn a hole right through their center. Waking up panicked, I turned to a pad of paper and a pencil to try to make sense of some of what I was feeling. This journal wasn’t for other people to read. It was for the sake of my sanity.
To be clear, my goal is not to equate myself to the writers who have spent their lives doing it or to Jackson Pollack either, but I believe that I have something to offer: a glimpse into the life of a composer who lived through the pandemic of COVID-19. The essays printed here run the gamut of subjects that are important to me: music, composition, community, education, career, French, personal revelations, politics and the effects of COVID-19. I hope that you see yourself somewhere in these words. It is a chronicle of the quarantine times in which we lived. Quarantine comes from the Italian word quarantina meaning “a period 40 days”, as in, go hide for 40 days to be sure that you don’t infect the rest of the town. These have been the longest 40 days we have ever lived. Like the 40 days of Lent, we march collectively toward the promise of a resurrection of our former lives.
There is no denying it. We will be changed. Some of us became writers, others became parents and some became mature before their years. We all lost something and some of us, someone. Someday, this pandemic will truly be a thing of the past. You will turn to your loved ones and show them your scars. We will tell stories about those we lost and speak about what life was like before all this. In the present, we are the ones gifted the opportunity to chronicle this time. Let us all take note of what we learned and take care of each other.
168pp, 257x182mm, mono