In the midst of the coronavirus crises, The Wire’s publisher Tony Herrington hails the response of the global experimental music community
Like every other member of the global independent experimental music community, The Wire, and the individuals who work for it, have been left reeling by the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
All around us, musicians and organisations, industry friends and acquaintances, fellow workers and travellers are suffering – without exception. For most of those who work in this particular cultural sector, life has always been marginal and precarious. Now, all the things that supported even that level of day to day existence have collapsed. Festivals and tours have been cancelled or postponed; workshops and teaching gigs have been suspended; the social spaces where music is transacted, from venues to clubs to record shops and beyond, have been forced to close their doors. As in every other sector of society, the community feels like it is under siege, taking one hammer blow after another. Nowhere is safe, no one is immune.
As events have accelerated in recent days, however, that initial sense of bewilderment and helplessness in the face of the various official responses, and their draconian effects, to the rapid spread of the virus has been overtaken by a new sensation.
Now, despite overwhelming levels of fear and anxiety, we see these self same individuals and organisations, this global independent experimental music community, rallying and working together, responding mutually and collectively with practical, positive solutions, utilising online tools and networks to fill the void opened up by the new protocols of social distancing and self-isolation, and the paralyzing effects of mass state lockdowns.
We feel humbled and galvanised by the levels of resilience and resourcefulness we are witnessing, and by the speed in which the community has responded, and how it is already starting to formulate new models and initiatives to support musicians and industry workers financially, as well as adapting existing networks to build new infrastructures through which the music can travel.
Like many other music and media organisations worldwide, we have been using our social media channels to post news and information on these remarkable and empowering community responses to the old world going into meltdown: go to @thewiremagazine on Twitter to find links to this emerging brave new world of live concert streams, DIY radio shows and podcasts, petitions, fundraisers and multiple online resources designed to give succour to embattled musicians, labels, venue runners, promoters, shop and festival workers worldwide.
No one is pretending that any of this is enough to replace what is being lost. Like every other sector of society, in the coming months and years the experimental music community will have to find new ways to adapt to this new state of being in the world. But it is a start, and the psychic and emotional benefits of all this combined activity and communal generosity are doing much to strengthen the resolve of all those affected.
For our part, we are attempting to maintain our sanity by ploughing ahead with work on the forthcoming May issue of the magazine. Needless to say, we have never had to produce an issue of the magazine in such straitened circumstances. All 434 issues of The Wire to date have been made by various generations of staff coming together in small offices for days and weeks at a time, collating the contributions of sundry writers and photographers and advertisers that have always been distributed globally.
Now we are having to find new ways to work together, not sitting side by side at desks in cluttered rooms, but remotely, separated from each other physically, but in many ways more connected than we have ever been. And so, taking courage from the example of our peers and contemporaries in this global experimental music community that we have never been prouder to be a part of, we carry on, we will prevail.
It’s sheer coincidence, but it seems entirely appropriate that the cover story of the May issue will take the form of a new interview with that great storyteller of hard times, Diamanda Galás, who is rising again with the reissue of her 1982 debut album The Litanies Of Satan and the release of a new piano and vocal piece titled DE-FORMATION. Like so much of Diamanda’s previous music, this new work concerns itself with how to confront the causes and consequences of plague and infection head on.
We have never felt closer to the music we report on, and the individuals and organisations that make it happen. We look forward to intensifying those relationships, drawing strength from them, in the coming months, online and in future issues of the magazine.