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Library of Congress Launches Series of Coronavirus-Inspired Music


The Library of Congress has started a project consisting of 10 musical works inspired by the coronavirus pandemic which will be available on its website and its social media pages from June 15-26.

“The Boccaccio Project” is named after the Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio, who lived through the Black Death pandemic and experienced its destruction in Europe during the 14th century. Boccaccio wrote The Decameron, a collection of 100 tales, between 1349 and 1353.

The Decameron centers around 10 people who fled the Black Death in Florence and shared stories with each other in a refuge.

“This early artistic response to an outbreak provided context and a means of expression, and the parallels to the quarantine and social distancing phenomena we have been experiencing worldwide in these difficult past few months resonate with us,” says the website of the Library of Congress.

The Library asked 10 pairs of composers and performers to write and perform brief solo works to be premiered on its website over the course of 10 weekdays this month.

“How do you present music at a time when nobody can get together?” David Plylar, a senior music specialist at the Library of Congress and the head of the project, told WTOP.

“We thought we might be able to produce short-scale works of one to three minutes each from a variety of composers from around the country and pair them up with a different performer and have them do this socially-distanced music.”

Participating musicians are:

Jeremy Jordan (piano) and Damien Sneed (composer) on Monday, June 15, 2020, 8 pm. Their work Sequestered Thoughts “was inspired by spending many days alone in solitude during the COVID-19 pandemic of Spring 2020.”

Andrew Nogal (oboe) of the Grossman Ensemble and Richard Drehoff, Jr. (composer) on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 8 pm. Shadow of a difference / Falling “is a series of moments based around the idea of the proverbial bird beating its wings against its newfound cage in trepidation.”

Kathryn Bates (cello) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Miya Masaoka (composer) on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, 8 pm. Intuit (a way to stay in this world) “begins to push at the liminality of microtonal ways of playing within underlying tonal centers.”

Jenny Lin (piano) and Cliff Eidelman (composer) on Thursday, June 18, 2020, 8 pm. About Bridges, Eidelman says “I reflected on the times we are all collectively living through and with this music, I found myself yearning toward a day when the world could all cross the bridge back into life.”

Erin Lesser (flute) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Erin Rogers (composer) on Friday, June 19, 2020, 8 pm. Hello World “sets the scene for introduction, reintroduction, and exploration.”

Charlton Lee (viola) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Luciano Chessa (composer) on Monday, June 22, 2020, 8 pm. 1462 Willard Street refers to the address of a San Francisco house Lee was visiting when, on March 16, 2020, the city curbed the spread of the pandemic with a shelter-in-place order.

Daniel Pesca (piano) of the Grossman Ensemble and Aaron Travers (composer) on Tuesday, June 23, 2020, 8 pm. Olcott Park is a place in Bloomington, Indiana, where Travers used to go with his children to play soccer, but couldn’t go often since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mariel Roberts (cello) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Ashkan Behzadi (composer) on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, 8 pm. “In Lobelia, we are observing the fragile and solitude expressivity of the performer ‘singing to herself,’ in searching for a forgotten melody of a past collective memory,” says Behzadi​.

Jannina Norpoth (violin) of PUBLIQuartet and Niloufar Nourbakhsh (composer) on Thursday, June 25, 2020, 8 pm. “A Shared Solitary attempts to resurface the fact that we are all going through this together all over the world even though we might not be able to physically see it,” according to Nourbakhsh.

Nathalie Joachim (flute) and Allison Loggins-Hull (composer), both of Flutronix, on Friday, June 26, 2020, 8 pm. “Have and Hold reflects the desire to be near others during an extended period of social distancing and isolation,” says Loggins-Hull.

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