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  • Writer's pictureisaacrsmith

COVID-19 and Quarantine Fun

What a strange world we live in, isn't it? It is amazing how quickly our entire lives turned upside down in just a matter of weeks. Suddenly, that virus that seemed to be contained and distant was overtaking our entire nation and shutting down everything. When UNI's Wind Ensemble cancelled their tour of Europe that was scheduled for Spring Break, everyone was confused and felt as if it was a major overreaction. Then, just a few days later, everyone realized that it was completely appropriate, as the entire campus shut down, just as schools all around America did. My heart aches for the many people who are suffering around the US and around the world. Not only for those who have been infected by coronavirus, but also those facing economic hardship who are out of work and might no longer be capable of paying rent. Suddenly, I realized just how good I had it (and, indeed, still have it).

I have been staying busy, and my reality as a composer has not really changed that much. I find myself to have a lot of time on my hands to listen to music and write music, but now am doing it from the safety of my house. Though at first I was almost looking forward to all of the time I would have on my hands, it has quickly grown tiring, and it has been difficult to maintain motivation when everything I do happens from the confines of my home. I, like so many of my colleagues, find myself missing what was "normal" before- making music with others, and going to theory or history classes, even if they seem dull typically. I, like so many others, didn't realize how much I had until it was gone.

Despite all of the negative news around the world, I have had one piece of very exciting news. After months of waiting, checking my email every 30 seconds in hopes of hearing from schools, I finally know my plans for the fall. I will be attending the University of Louisville, as the recipient of the Bomhard Fellowship there. I am excited for the many opportunities available to me at the school, but what makes it even more exciting is that my fiancée is also attending the University of Louisville, on a university fellowship in the experiential psychology program, pursuing a PhD with an emphasis in auditory cognition. We are extremely fortunate that we will both have the opportunity to pursue our graduate studies at a good school, while also living together. Our wedding plans have changed, as we will now do a small ceremony with just close family and friends, but it is very nice to know where we are heading in the fall after many months of unknowns.

For the time being, though, I am continuing to work on my orchestral piece. The reading that was scheduled for this August with UNI's orchestra has obviously fallen through, but now I have the opportunity to make the piece a little bit longer, and to create a satisfactory shape that I really want out of it. I am also continuing to listen to a lot of music and do some in-depth score studying. On the academic side, I am finishing up work on my senior thesis, which is in the field of music theory. In my thesis, I analyze the writings and music of Gerard Grisey, a French composer associated with the spectral movement of the 70s. Though Grisey is not as well known as other contemporaries due to his death of a stroke in the 90s, his ideas regarding the passage of time in music are incredibly interesting, and provided a starting point for my paper. I use Grisey's ideas in my paper to analyze a piece by the living composer Magnus Lindberg, entitled Souvenir. This paper has been a huge learning process for me. Not only has it provided a lot of insight into the subject matter with which I am dealing, but it also has taught me the process of writing an academic paper within the field of music theory. I am not sure exactly what my future career will entail, but there is a good chance that theory will be a part of it somehow, and this project has been a great experience for me to set me up for future success.

Other than the projects mentioned, I am just trying to finish out my undergraduate coursework strong. It has been a little difficult to maintain the same level of intensity with Zoom classes instead of attending in person, but I think I can make it these last few weeks, as I think I owe it to myself to finish it out well.

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