At MASS MoCA, a composer traces the pandemic’s arc through music

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us were trapped inside, unable to do much, staring at the news with glossy eyes and thinking about an uncertain (and terrifying) future. rice field.

Composer Murray Hideley did the same, except he was productive.

Hidaly sat down at the piano and played and recorded snippets of sounds during lockdown. This is the new immersive musical experience at North He Adams’ Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which will eventually become “Distant Together,” and invites everyone to temporarily slide back into them. In the early days of the pandemic, reflect, feel, heal, and hopefully eventually move

This Friday and Saturday, in the heart of MASS MoCA’s 10,000-square-foot Hunter Center, the culmination of Hidary’s solo recordings transforms into a live abstract orchestral clock.

60 musicians are organized into 12 string quartets and shaped like a circular clock. Audiences are invited to traverse Hidalley’s compositions from a unique perspective, just as they did during the pandemic.

“When we came up with this idea, there was an element of time experience as well as the emotional roller coaster that we all went on,” says Hidery. “At times it felt stretched out and at other times it felt very choppy. Time was elastic.”

“Distanced Together” composer Murray Hideley. (Provided by MASS MoCA)

Fluctuating between unexpected moments of percussive intensity and then vast expanses of openness, Hidaly has people going through their own scores and the first impact the pandemic has had on time and our collective around it. We see it as a portal to re-experience the classic journey.

“You can almost hear in the work the stages we all went through in terms of initial uncertainty, tension, and fear,” says Hidery. “Then there is the triumph and hope of the human spirit and the waves that come and go.”

The audience is free to roam as the musicians, a mix of New York City’s Contemporary Ensemble players and North Adams’ local instrumentalists led by conductor David Bloom, perform at their best.

“Some people walk clockwise, counterclockwise, backwards, or lie on pillows scattered around the room, as if time had stopped,” says Hidery. “They essentially become the abstract hands of the clock.”

This is where the true meaning of Hidalley’s work resonates in the audience’s interactions, each individually and jointly following the arc of the pandemic.

“No matter what your experience with the pandemic has been, you or someone you know has been through some hardships,” says Hidery. The first month of the pandemic — but by stories he heard from friends and witnessed on the news.

“You want to get back to normal life, but the pain will always be there unless you deal with it,” Hidary adds. “It’s very difficult to heal what you’re not feeling.”

Hidaly has built a career helping people introspect, heal and even transcend through music and meditation. In 2014, he founded MindTravel, a music experience company that hosts events where people travel through beautiful landscapes and listen to improvisational music created by Hidary herself. MindTravel has since taken thousands of people around the world on their musical journeys.​​

“Part of the experience is creating a very intimate space for reflection and catharsis that allows us to bring forward, deal with whatever pushes us beneath the surface, and truly be our soul. You can put it behind you.”

Conductor David Bloom leads musicians from New York and North Adams.  (Provided by MASS MoCA)
Conductor David Bloom leads musicians from New York and North Adams. (Provided by MASS MoCA)

Hidary’s live show kicks off on Friday, but two performances on Saturday, MASS MoCA’s annual “Free Day,” pushes this overarching goal even further, with more than 2,500 people expected to visit the museum. may be suggesting.

Sue Killam, MASS MoCA’s Director of Performing Arts, said: “This piece was written during a pandemic, but it’s really about people coming back together.”

After Saturday, ‘Distanced Together’ will run until February 4th at the MASS MoCA, featuring Hidary’s permanent show as an installation consisting of thousands of feet of speaker wire connecting 60 speakers in place of each musician. Effectively play specific sections of a composition.

Hidaly and his team plan to bring the installation to major cities across the United States to recreate live performances with local musicians.

On a more personal level, the title, “Distanced Together,” refers to Hidaly’s relationship with his sister, who died years before the pandemic, but during his long, isolated days at the piano, the memory of him remains. It was with Work is also for those who have long-standing grief.

“Normally for those who don’t look back on their experiences, something happens in life that pushes them toward death, challenge, and impermanence,” says Hidery. “One of the places where people look for answers is art, and art can provide such comfort and embrace emotional states. Especially music.”

‘Distanced Together’ will be performed live at the MASS MoCA on January 28th and 29th and will continue as a 60-speaker sound installation through February 4th.

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