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MIT has this insane abundance of talented musicians.
about half the MIT undergraduate population is taking music courses every year.
And they're these crazily impressive people.
When the shutdown started looming in that kind of that final week in March
we really started to realize just how important the immediacy of being together was
and what it meant to us to be making music in the same place at the same time.
So we got them all microphones and we shipped them off all over to everybody in the orchestra.
And we had actually performed a piece of Brian Eno's music called, "Discreet Music" in the fall
which basically is an improvisation where everybody chooses their own tempo
and their own patterns. And supposedly it was just to teach them how to get the right
levels and how to like learn how to position the mic and stuff like that
but really it was to kind of make a piece out of this like a collage.
So I got these 45 tracks and I put them all together and suddenly we had made
an orchestra piece together
(student's recording of Eno's music)
And I let them know that we're gonna have the first zoom meeting exactly when
the first rehearsal would have been and like I just opened up to the program and
all these faces started popping up, you know, all these kids that I've been
working with all year and I just got so happy in a way that I hadn't been really
since the whole thing began you know.
And they seemed really happy to see each other
they seemed really happy to just to connect, and I just realized this is
kind of about education and it's kind of about music
but it's also just about connecting.
(students' recording of Eno's music continues)
Then it was just like well what should we do next? And so we decided that we
would take on Beethoven now! (students' recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 playing in background)
So, we all find it hilarious that I walked into
this like trying to do everything but play Beethoven with this Orchestra
(Beethoven music) "Can you all hear that?"
But then it turned out that the 2nd Movement of the 7th Symphony
was the perfect project in this situation.
It had just the right sort of feeling for the moment
because it's sort of funereal in a weird way but it has
but it has these kind of moments of hope in it.
"It goes up a couple steps and then it stays there."
So we'll finish it on the last day of term but there ain't nothing like the real thing, right?
So it's not gonna sound like the Vienna Philharmonic you know
but the other ensembles are doing similar things
the jazz band is working that way
the wind ensemble is working that way. It's been great.
And exciting to me about coming back together is that we'll have what we've
learned from this experience which, is actually quite a lot of information
about who we all are as musicians what our skills are and I mean
I talk to my colleagues about how we kind of know more about our students individual
abilities then we did going in because I'm getting 40 recordings from them a week.
I felt a little bit guilty about the
fact that it had to by necessity turn into a recording techniques class
'cause that's not what they signed on for.
They just wanted to come do orchestra and play in the orchestra a couple of times a week.
But these are empowering things for them to know and I realized it helps them in
exactly the ways that they're supposed to be helped as musicians.
If you use this in the right way then you can play more in tune and you can play more in time
and you can actually hear why it sounds different.
So what we've gained from that technology
we can use it and put it back where it belongs, which is
as this tool for togetherness and connection and empathy.
And to be able to do that in a space that's actually designed to make music
is kind of like and biologists are doing the best they can to do their work at home
but ultimately when they get back in the lab, they have other equipment and they have everything
designed in the right way, they have the right temperature control, the right clean rooms
then they can really do their work
And so for us
we're in this holding pattern
and we're making the best of it and we're learning things, but
what we're really gonna do with that is what happens when we actually
get back together in a real music space
(students' recording of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 continues)