Saturday, January 02, 2021

Coronavirus and the creative urge

At the end of a horrific year, Nightshift editor Ronan Munro focused on "one crumb of positivity - the fact that music is still being made and still being played". Even in the desperate circumstances, musicians' apparently irrepressible urge to create - whether as a means of responding to and seeking to make sense of events, or of blotting out reality and instead finding distraction, comfort and escape - certainly is "something well worth celebrating".

In a statement to promote his new album By The Fire, Thurston Moore described the contents as "love songs in a time where creativity is our dignity, our demonstration against the forces of oppression". So it makes good sense that he should be the host of an episode of the BBC's Music Life podcast on the experience of making music during the pandemic. Joining the characteristically excitable Moore - who even at the age of 62 does still have what one guest called "the elf gene" - are musician friends Brix Start Smith (formerly of The Fall, now of Brix & The Extricated), Rachel Aggs (of Sacred Paws, Shopping, Trash Kit and more) and Stephen O'Malley (best known as a founder member of Sunn O)))).

All three guests lament how coronavirus and consequent lockdowns have robbed them of what they hold most dear about music. For O'Malley, it's travelling and meeting people, which Moore acknowledges is very often a catalyst for creativity; Aggs enjoys the feeling of collaborating together with others in the same physical space; and Smith values the connection with a live audience and a sense of presence above all else. O'Malley has at least had the opportunity to taste the largely forbidden pleasures by performing to reduced-capacity audiences in France - an experience that he describes as intense and emotional and for which he is profoundly grateful.

Smith admits to not taking much inspiration from politics, but for Moore there is an increasing "responsibility" on musicians in terms of providing what he terms "a politics of pleasure". Aggs offers the sharpest insight: "It's a bit of a luxury to be able to step away from politics in your work." As a queer female person of colour, she insists that "those identity things are always going to be present in what I do", arguing that "just existing, making noise, taking up space - that is political".

It's just a shame that the podcast feels so short - given the range of participants and the subjects touched upon, it could have comfortably been double the length without losing the listener's attention.

(PS Rachel, you've got the Chelsea Light Moving backstage pass because you supported them with Trash Kit at the Village Underground in London in June 2013. I should know - I was there. Fantastic gig it was, too.)

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