This could be a lot worse — that’s one among the plurality of perspectives that Marco Cera, Tafelmusik oboist and multi-instrumentalist at large, brings to this episode of REMOTE. Perhaps it’s not misguided to add that the worst is behind us, granted we are able to support that sentiment with ample amount of caution and cautious optimism as we move forward.
I find in Cera a great example of the skill sets that will be part and parcel to what it means to be a performing artist as we move closer to a new normal: being involved in every aspect of production in order to reach your audience in their homes, and on a personal level. For some that’ll mean learning the basics of putting a music video together, or improving the ability to communicate and collaborate their vision with a videographer. “Making a virtue of necessity” is how Cera describes the new skills and opportunities that all aspects of the performing arts can take away from this crisis; along the way he also talks about staying positive and using this moment to reinvent yourself as an artist.
How are you doing during this pandemic?
I’m doing quite well, considering this crazy time we are living in. Life is challenging during COVID-19 but I must confess that there are some aspects of “life in isolation” that I’m enjoying.
Taking a break from daily rehearsals and live performances is giving me time to concentrate on new projects that I always wanted to pick up. I’ve reconnected with friends around the world and started working on artistic collaborations with them. It’s been galvanizing. I’m enjoying a less frantic lifestyle — spending time with my family, making music with my kids, cooking and going on solitary early morning walks that help me organize my thoughts.
What are some of the ways you are keeping busy artistically?
Artistically I’m excited because I’m reinventing myself.
When I was teenager, my brother and I got a four-track tape recorder. I have been composing and creating music by layering different instruments since then. The passion for making my own music (which is different from my main activity of playing in Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra) is still vivid and refreshing, and nowadays much simpler.
I’m fortunate to play many musical instruments and to be interested in composition and multi-track recording. These skills come in very handy in this period of social distancing. I’ve turned my laptop into a home recording studio and I’m working on making some original music where I play many layers of different instruments. I’m basically cloning myself to create a complete band. Right now my goal is to create music that will witness this period of isolation.
I’m also keeping busy by creating videos for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, which started a campaign under the hashtag #TafelmusikTogether. This is an initiative by members of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, choir, and administrative team where we are finding creative ways to support each other and our audience with the comfort of music.
I recently created a music video featuring the children of Tafelmusik’s musicians (including my own children Marie, Vittoria and Matteo) performing a soothing song of hope. I wanted to convey the message that despite the current situation we can create music together, and we can offer hope. Music not only cheers us up but it can heal our loneliness and isolation.
It looks like we musicians are turning into video artists during this pandemic!
Any specific books, films, or TV on the go?
During this period of isolation I’m feeling particularly nostalgic of my home country, Italy, which was brutally hit by the pandemic. For this reason, I’m reading Italian Neo-Realist literature by Ignazio Silone, Cesare Pavese, Francesco Jovine, and Carlo Levi.
Life is tough nowadays, and we can easily feel doomed, but reading about the difficulties people were experiencing during the period prior to and following World War II makes me feel very fortunate by comparison and hopeful that we can recover from anything.
Any words of wisdom to get through this?
For artists and musicians like myself, I would suggest seeing this strange moment as an opportunity to develop new skills, practice and learn. Try not to panic, accept the transition of our life and profession in a constructive way. Try to stay positive, we will be even stronger when we’ll get to the other side of this funky tunnel. We’ll likely never have another opportunity and time like this to rethink ourselves and our lives. As never before, we can push ourselves and try to make a virtue of necessity.
What do you think are some of the ways arts communities can better prepare for adjusting to a crisis such as this?
I can see that there will be a decrease in live performances in the future. People will still consume art through digital media and live performance artists need to find out how to reach our audiences in a new format.
Traveling and touring will be more difficult for artists, and we will need to serve and enrich our own local communities.
We’ll have to find ways to reach out to audiences that don’t necessarily involve technology. I think that’s the ultimate goal of artists like us.