Creative Agency During a Pandemic
Music professor and composer urges students to think of constraints as opportunities for creative growth.
Artists have faced constraints that affected their ability to practice their craft throughout history. The limitations artists currently face due to COVID-19—from a lack of access to concert halls and theaters to the inability to collaborate freely with others in person—are not necessarily new. Yet they also pose an opportunity for creative growth, according to music professor Mark Applebaum, who came back early from sabbatical to teach a spring course on Creative Agency in the Pandemic World.
Applebaum, the Leland and Edith Smith Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, wanted to help a wide range of artists figure out how to create in this environment. As he discusses in the video below, his goal was to reframe the notion of constraints, suggesting they could instead be thought of as possible opportunities. Artists across time have chosen to work within constraints as self-imposed challenges, Applebaum noted. For example, Maurice Ravel composed a one-handed piano concerto, the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D Major, for the Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm during World War I.
As a composer, Applebaum himself has been drawn to creative constraints during his career, including accepting an unusual commission to create a piece of music for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. For Applebaum, it was the challenges—the composition could only be one-minute long, had to be performed by two players, for an audience of only two people, all situated in a coat closet—that made it exciting.
In that spirit, Applebaum encouraged his students in the course not to create a more limited version of what they would have created anyway, but to create quarantine art—something uniquely borne of this moment.
“I'm thought of as a composer of music, and I put musical notes and sounds together,” Applebaum said. “But if there's something that I could strive to do in life—in some ways it's to compose communities. And as a teacher, you get to do that. And that's one of the most gratifying things about being a teacher. And this course is no exception.”
Mark Applebaum Describes Constraints as Opportunities
Music professor Mark Applebaum urges students to see constraints as opportunities for creative growth during the pandemic.
To view his entire composition, visit: https://tinyurl.com/ybm2xvr3