We’ve entered into a time of incredible uncertainty, but it’s during times like this that a lot of us find hope and strength in music and hobbies. Here’s music that’s keeping us calm, collected and carrying on, along with a look at the activities we’ve been turning to for comfort.
This series highlights our favorite music of the moment – discoveries we’ve made when we’re at home cooking or cleaning, at the office, or out and about. Classical or otherwise, old, new, or just really cool, these are the tracks we’ve had on repeat this month. Find a cumulative playlist at the end of this post. Happy listening!
Barber: Violin Concerto
I'm drawing again from my "once-a-year" listening list for this. Lately I've been flagrantly flouting my own rule and listening to Barber's Violin Concerto over and over again; specifically, Hilary Hahn's version (what a goddess). The first and second movements are just transcendently gorgeous; and the backstory behind the third movement makes me crack up every time (I'll try to tell it on the air someday!).
I've taken up crocheting again: specifically amigurumi, which are basically miniature crocheted objects stuffed with fluff, with faces sewn on. There's an amigurumi for EVERYthing: animals, food, plants, household objects, you name it. (I've even come across an amigurumi toilet paper pattern - which is more topical now than you'd ever want crocheted TP to be.) Each project takes only a few hours, and I've been mailing my finished items at random to various friends and loved ones; because who wouldn't want to receive a smiling toaster unannounced in the mail?
Boston – Hitch a Ride
I tend to have seasonal and even monthly listening habits, and April to me means one thing: Patriots’ Day Weekend. Now, with the marathon rescheduled and Red Sox season indefinitely postponed, the weekend won’t feel the same. But, in the most Boston of months, I always turn to a group of local boys to remind me that first warm spring day is inches away.
The usual way I process most things – frustration, elation, anything – is to write music. This experience has been no different. With my rehearsal studio closed indefinitely and the usual speckling of live shows now cancelled, I’ve had even more quality time with the old guitar. One thing’s for sure, though: this strange time is sure to provide the emotional roller coaster needed to crank out some tasty jams.
BTS — Outro:Ego
There’s a lot of ways I could go in picking music for this, as I’ve been listening to more music than usual while working from home. I’d be lying if I didn’t pick a song by BTS as my most-listened-to track right now, and here’s why: their music is loud, catchy, and high-energy, with the added bonus of not being in English, so I can listen to it without getting distracted while I’m writing. “Outro: Ego” is the kind of bop that keeps me dancing even when I’m stuck inside.
My activity is really two activities, both of which are good, but together they’re better. First is conference calling, but with my friends. We use the messaging app “Discord” as our big group chat normally, but lately we’ve been using a feature we hadn’t explored before: multi-way voice calling. It’s great to hop on a call with eight of your closest friends, especially when you can’t see them otherwise. That brings me to my second thing: Animal Crossing. This is the best video game ever. It’s fun, it’s cute, it isn’t stressful, and you can visit the towns your friends create. My friends and I have been virtually hanging out together in one of our Animal Crossing towns while we all chat on the phone – it’s almost like we’re all together in real life.
Sting - Windmills of Your Mind
When I'm away from WCRB I turn to WCRB, because Mozart, Beethoven, Dvorak, Chopin and my favorite Vaughan Williams have so much to say for these times. And sometimes...I also turn to Sting and The Police/Synchronicity, Fleetwood Mac/Rumors, and the soundtrack to "The Thomas Crown Affair" (yes, Sting again, singing "The Windmills of Your Mind" and Nina Simone singing "Sinner Man.") And I remember my mom's often-cited phrase..."This, too, shall pass."
Max Ehrmann - The Desiderata
Ever since I was a teenager and found it, I have lived my life by the poem "The Desiderata," by Max Erhmann, which starts, "Go placidly amid the noise and haste...and remember what peace there may be in silence." And so...I go about my days taking care of business: working, caring for my family, cooking and baking and dreaming of the warmer days to get some seeds into my garden patch. I text or phone a check-in with loved ones, walk the dog, and clean the closets, and live in each and every moment, fighting to keep things as normal as possible for everyone, grateful for whatever normalcy remains.
Rita Strohl - Great Dramatic Sonata "Titus and Berenice"
Rita Strohl's Titus and Berenice, a "Dramatic Sonata" for cello and piano, lives up to its billing with deeply moving passages that tell the story of two lovers forced apart. But while the other three movements are filled with longing, anger, and dread, the second movement bounces along as Berenice's handmaidens try to cheer her up. It's a lovely little distraction, and a good reminder to try to find some fresh air amid the clouds of uncertainty.
I've been socially distancing by heading out to secluded streams and ponds to fish for trout. It's a wonderful way to get outside and up close with nature. And I don't just spend time with fish; beavers, muskrats, herons, ducks, and deer are all common companions while I'm casting. Plus, I don't have to go to the grocery store for food afterwards (if I'm lucky)!
One piece that speaks to this moment for me is Rachmaninoff’s Vespers. Its soulfulness is beautiful, grappling with some kind of timeless, universal pain and resilience. Charles Bruffy led the Kansas City Chorale and Phoenix Chorale in a 2015 release that won two Grammy Award. And another opportunity to hear it comes from the Skylark Ensemble, recently featured on WCRB In Concert.
Dolly Parton’s America
Having grown up in Texas, I’ve got a soft spot for country music, even if I almost never actually listen to it these days. And with that lurking in the back of my mind, Jad Abumrad’s podcast Dolly Parton’s America, which delves into the cultural underpinnings of Dolly Parton’s wide-ranging popularity, has both taken me back to those roots and given me some hope for the cultural divisions we see all around us. It’s also just a lot of fun to listen to!
Catie Turner – Home
As far as music is concerned, Catie Turner has been giving me a lot of peace. She has an amazing voice and her track 'Home' has been resonating with me a lot in this time of distance and isolation.
Games with Friends
I have been finding a lot of encouragement and joy in playing remote games with friends. Virtual dungeons and dragons, video game play alongs and online multiplayer games - all of them have been so important in keeping in touch with loved ones lately.
I’m with Her - See You Around
For music, I've turned to the folk/singer songwriter world, and a fantastic 2018 album by "I'm With Her" called 'See You Around'.
Bedtime Stories and Paper Airplanes
I’m planning a nightly life bedtime story reading project and making a paper airplane and seeing it fly suuuuper far.
Nina Simone - Here Comes the Sun
When I’m done with work and turn off WCRB (yes, it does occasionally happen), I put Nina Simone’s “Here Comes the Sun” album on my record player. As soon as I hear the first few notes, my day gets better.
I do the NYT crossword every day, but with, you know… *gestures wildly* it’s been an even more important part of my day. Focusing completely on something trivial, that takes so much concentration and thinking “outside the box,” has kept me sane in the past few weeks.
The Hit Points — Streets of Whiterun (from “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”)
In January, I happened across a concert by this unbelievable video game music-bluegrass-cover band. It was pure serendipity, and they’ve been the soundtrack to get me through lonely evenings ever since. No matter what you think of that description, just hit play - maybe they'll become your soundtrack, too.
I’m not good at letting myself relax. When given free time, I’ll spend it micromanaging my to-do list, cleaning, and working. That’s why my perfect outlet during this weird time has been a video game called Animal Crossing. There are no bosses, no battles, no leveling up - instead, there’s a town that you can clean, decorate, and run to your heart’s content, all while enjoying peaceful music and befriending animals of all species. Plugging into this game incites me to take a moment and smell the flowers when I can’t really leave the house and do it myself.
Hear the full playlist: