Staying Composed: Creating Music in the Time of Crisis
The assignment for students in Shauna Smith’s Advanced Music Theory and Composition class was this:
Make a video of your surroundings that captures the essence of this time in history and your place within it, and compose music that embodies that feeling.
Three students from China—Mingyu “Ben” Jin ’22, Xiao “Elisa” Lin ’22 and Siyo “Linda” Pan—created beautiful, powerful works.
“The students' music videos blew me away for their poignancy and candor,” Smith says. “I think the project tapped into a creative depth of emotion that could only be expressed in their music videos.”
Through the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, these students have been resilient. Imagine being a teenager thousands of miles from home facing days and weeks of uncertainty as to when you’ll be able to rejoin your family. As of April 19, all three students will be home, or en route.
Each student produced their music video in different locations based on where they were in their quest to return home. This is reflected in the music they composed and the themes they chose.
Linda had already made it back to China when she produced hers. It is a serene and beautiful meditation to a Buddhist shrine set up in her home.
When Elisa landed in China, she was required to quarantine in a hotel by herself for two weeks before the final leg of her trip home. She produced two videos, one an upbeat narrative of being sequestered in a hotel room and the other, a grateful celebration of the last day of quarantine and finally heading home.
Ben was still on campus when he produced his music and video. It’s a touching tribute and thank you to the healthcare workers on the frontlines in China. Ben’s home is in Wuhan, which was one of the first areas affected by COVID-19.
Smith believes that the assignment was therapeutic for the students. “I think that creating music can be a soothing balm in the face of uncertainty,” she says. “You’re in control and have the opportunity to express your true self.”