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Wheeler on Music During Pandemic: The Conversation

Senior Distinguished Artist-in-Residence and composer Scott Wheeler writes for The Conversation about the state of classical music during the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating that while the situation is “grim,” musicians and organizations are performing online, or in socially-distanced ways.

Wheeler composed a ragtime piece called “Isolation Rag” for violinist Gil Shaham during this time, which includes quotes from the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and one from the Brahms Violin Concerto.

In a corresponding video clip, Wheeler plays examples of ragtime on the piano, and violinist Gil Shaham plays Wheeler’s “Isolation Rag.”

There are some wonderfully engineered ways for people to perform together when they are in different locations, pieces being imagined for video and other electronic forms. There are a number of websites that have listings, such as Musical America’s “Free Guide to (mostly) Free Streams.” Dreamstage and Open Space Music both take the approach that the concert is only streamed live, not archived. Both these also charge a modest ticket price, making it a little more like a non-pandemic concert experience. It’s also a great time to catch up on the recordings being released now, recorded before the pandemic, of course. If you love concert music and don’t feel much need to add to your collection of Beethoven symphonies, I’d especially recommend a label like BMOP Sound, which has terrific performances of new music ranging from traditional to avant garde. Only a fraction of this music turns up in Boston’s Symphony Hall or Lincoln Center, but I think it will make you realize that even if concert life is snuffed out for now, classical music itself has plenty of life left in it.

Read The Conversation piece.

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