On April 10th, the Deerfield official Instagram posted a video of several Deerfield students performing the John Lennon hit, “Let it Be.” Though they were physically separated by miles and oceans apart, the video managed to capture a sense of togetherness. In a time when physical interaction is rare, the video was well received by students, teachers, parents, and alumni alike.
The video was directed and produced by campus Production Service Technician Samuel Watson. For Mr. Watson, this project was unprecedented. Faced with the challenge of orchestrating a musical production asynchronously, he went through a number of steps to create a strong final product.
First, Mr. Watson sent out a backing karaoke track consisting of a piano, bass, and metronome for the musicians to follow along with as they played their parts. He also distributed the appropriate sheet music to each musician. Then, after the students had recorded their parts, they sent them to Mr. Watson who received the collection of recordings, extracted the audio, and then lined them up with the videos and the original backing track. Lastly, he mixed them all into the program FinalCut and put together the final product of the video.
For most of the musicians involved, this method of musical collaboration was unfamiliar. As singer Kate Landino ‘20 said, “To me, music is about sharing an experience and listening to other people and being vulnerable. Now, you can’t do that at all. The entire experience of musically connecting with other people has been taken away from us at the moment.”
From a technical standpoint, Mr. Watson noted a similar challenge to the process. “It’s hard to give feedback instantaneously. Performance is a feedback loop for musicians. [When creating asynchronously], there’s no rehearsal. There’s just doing your part in a vacuum and it can feel kind of foreign unless you come from a recording background,” he said.
Despite these challenges in the artistic process, Landino noted that this new process of music-making reminded her of her first years of creating music. She recalled that during her ninth-grade year, she would write music with her guitar for two hours every day after school. This more rudimentary form of music-making was a reflection of her motivation for creating her art at the time.
“People turn to music for comfort in times of anxiety. That’s why I got into music; to get away from stuff. At a time where things feel so uncertain and terrifying, we can turn on a record player, turn on Spotify and listen to someone tell us that everything will be okay,” Landino said.
Outside of the Deerfield artistic community, musical artists have found that listening and playing music plays a special role in healing. The World Health Organization, in collaboration with Global Citizen, organized a televised concert with several big-name artists and helped raise over $127 million for healthcare workers during the current coronavirus pandemic. Though it was not a typical concert by any means, it was reminiscent of various relief concerts of the past.
For artists, just like many other professions, the current pandemic has impacted their typical ways of life and sources of income. Landino noted the intimate connection that artists have with audiences as a unique implication of the situation. She encourages members of the Deerfield community to consider donating to various artist relief funds, such as those for Broadway actors.
While we may only be able to connect through our screens at this point in time, music can be a source of unity and joy. The future of the world is uncertain, but, as John Lennon urges, “There will be an answer, let it be.”