When the pandemic started, my greatest anxiety was that a bad choice on my part could kill someone. My decisions during lockdown and my willingness not only to follow rules, but often to go further than required, has been entirely based on the determination not to harm others.
At the same time, I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about what makes life worth living. A life without time spent in person with people I care about is hard to bear. A life without free access to the countryside is grim. I’m not convinced that a life without live music is worth living. The last thing I did before I went into lockdown (ahead of actual lockdown) was to go to a small, local gig.
There are important questions to ask about what we live for, and what gives joy and meaning to our lives. What value do we find in simply existing? What is it worth risking your life for? Lockdown has given us the chance to find out what really is essential. It’s raised questions about what we’re willing to put ahead of our own health, what we’re willing to risk other people’s lives over, what we can’t do without. For many, this has also been a time of finding out how a person’s economic worth relates to their social usefulness. It turns out it’s the lowest paid workers who are doing the most essential things.
With gigs cancelled, musicians struggled financially. So did all the people whose work depends on venues being open. I watched our government shaft the entire sector.
At the weekend, I went to a gig. I reckon the venue capacity was about 250 people, and the space was well ventilated, so it wasn’t especially risky. I’m double jabbed, and like a lot of people there, I was wearing a mask. It seemed like a decent risk to take. There were a lot of older people in the audience who were taking a bigger risk than me in being there. As the music started, I wondered whether this was worth dying for.
Yes. Yes it was.
A life without the things that make life worth living is not a life worth living. It might be reasonable to endure that over a few months as a temporary safety measure. It’s not possible to live there. Music is essential to me, but there’s a huge difference between listening to a recording and being in a space where people are making music. Much as I love the internet, being online is not the same for me as physically being in the same space with people.
If music helped you in lockdown, please note that most musicians had a really hard time of it. Streaming music doesn’t result in musicians being paid much. If you have any resources to spare, buy a track, or an album, leave something in a tip jar or on Patreon. If we want music, we have to keep our composers and performers economically viable.