I am taking this time to think of music as a tool – not something we do but something we use. In our society, we place a lot of value on productivity, which means a lot of people see time as something to be ﬁlled. Right now, we have a lot of time on our hands, and it’s easy to feel like we should be using it productively, to get better at things. However, this time also comes with global trauma, and maybe we should shift our focus from getting better at things to feeling better. In this difficult time, I have been using music to embody self care, and support people I love. I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music in helping me process my emotions, distract me when necessary, and create community.
Three weeks into isolation and I’ve been opening GarageBand more frequently than my fridge. Whenever I’m anxious or overwhelmed, I use music to tap into what I’m feeling and explore it. I set up my USB microphone and found sounds to match my thoughts – sometimes undulating undercurrents, sometimes distorted and spacey synths. I choose chord progressions the same way – some are rising in hope and some are falling, or ﬂat and repetitive. When it’s time to add vocals, I just listen and see what falls out – usually it’s spot on, and sums up what I was having trouble identifying before recording. I like to think of songwriting as a process of self-reﬂection, as well as a process of creation. To translate an internal experience into something external and recognisable, you have to spend time with it, and pay attention to it, something you might not do otherwise. This isn’t the best music I’ve ever made, but that doesn’t matter, it serves a worthy purpose. It’s not made to be shared, it’s made to be made, and to help me understand myself.
I have also been using music to maintain relationships – from video dance parties and online album streamings to songwriting sessions over messenger. The private exchange of creativity has allowed my friends and I to be less performative and more playful – the music we make together isn’t about perfectionism, but about sharing something, and being together. We’ve exchanged GarageBand ﬁles, written musicals about our lives over video calls and sent each other voice memos. If we can write songs from two bedrooms across the country, we can write songs with anyone anywhere. Friends from other continents have contacted me about writing together, even though we’re in isolation, and that feels really powerful.
Making process-oriented music has been refreshing, a much needed break from my goal-oriented mindset. Exploring the multitude of ways in which music supports me has made me more thankful than ever to have it as a mode of expression.