Virtual introductory meetings for global research network for “Music in times of the COVID-19 pandemic” (MUSICOVID)

Initiators: Niels Chr. Hansen (Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies & Center for Music in the Brain, Aarhus University, Denmark) & Melanie Wald-Fuhrmann (Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt/M., Germany)

The current COVID-19 pandemic and the related measures taken by governments and authorities have a plethora of severe consequences for individuals, societies, the economy, and the entire public life. They also affect the sphere of music all over the world: Live performances cannot take place and independent musicians have to fear for their livelihood. At the same time, an outburst of musical creativity can be witnessed:

Plastered all over the social media landscape, touching videos of people making music from their balconies and homes have spread virally with higher contagion rates than the coronavirus itself, proliferating under popular hashtags such as #coronasongs, #quarantunes, #covidance, #pandemix, and #songsofcomfort. Leading opera houses, bands, and symphony orchestras have followed suit in realizing the social cohesion potential of music and made their performances digitally available to the public at no cost. While it may be unsurprising that professional musicians facing sudden unemployment from mass cancellations can devote vast creative resources to the production of musical online content, the enthusiasm with which the general public is taking part has been truly overwhelming. People have eagerly recovered old instruments from past oblivion, humorous and sincere corona songs have been composed, and innovative corona lyrics have been crafted for old, well-known hit songs. Governments in Southeast Asia have even released music videos and dance challenges promoting public health.

It seems that music is being widely and creatively used as a means to individually and socially cope with several of the challenges posed by the current crisis onto individuals, among them anxiety, boredom, loneliness, stress, and uncertainty about the future.

Therefore, we want to invite researchers from all backgrounds to join forces in order to document, investigate, and understand the multitude of ways in which music is used and experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. If we can explain how and under which circumstances musicking practices can provide an opportunity for individuals to cope with a threatening situation such as the present one, this knowledge might help societies to be better prepared should a similar situation occur in the future. More broadly, research outcomes from this work may have long-term implications for developing clinical and therapeutic interventions and best practices tackling loneliness and social isolation in health, wellbeing, and aerospace psychology.

With this call, we want to:

  1. create a global network of researchers who plan to study or have already started to study some musical aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic
  2. discuss ways of creating and coordinating a shared archive of videos, hashtags, and media coverage, based on Niels Chr. Hansen’s crowd-sourced database (https://www.survey-xact.dk/LinkCollector?key=GV9DN8Y5UK15) and other similar efforts
  3. inspire interdisciplinary, collaborative, and global research on that topic and invite contributions to a workshop/conference and an edited volume or special issue

We are convinced that such a multi-faceted topic can only be studied if all branches of music research join forces. Therefore, this call invites contributions from ethnomusicologists, historical musicologists, music theorists, music sociologists, musical data scientists, as well as music psychologists, music neuroscientists, and researchers studying music-related aspects of health and wellbeing.

We will organize two virtual get-togethers on May 19 (9 am CEST and 4 pm CEST to allow researchers from around the globe to participate). Here, first research ideas and preliminary results will be exchanged and discussed. Depending on this, we will then plan the structure of a related conference and edited volume or special issue.

Relevant research topics/questions could include:

  • How did listening and music making behaviour change during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How do people use music as a means to cope with the situation?
  • How do organizers of live music events (concert halls, festival managers etc.) respond to the situation?
  • How do musicians respond creatively and practically to the situation?
  • How can we simulate liveness in a time with no live music performances?
  • Can participatory music making from a distance be used as a remedy for spatial distancing?
  • How could we establish a typology of corona songs (in terms of content, approach, mood, instrumentation, newly composed vs. cover songs)?
  • Which pieces do people pick as repertoire for virtual choirs or ensembles or for balcony singing?
  • How has music been used during previous crises, and what implications may this have for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?

We hope that this appeals to many from the music research communities and will grow into a powerful and visible network cross-nationally and cross-disciplinarily.

Therefore, if you are planning or already engaged in research related to music and COVID-19 and want to be part of our network, please get in touch with us via nchansen@aias.au.dk and melanie.wald-fuhrmann@ae.mpg.de