Autore in Onda

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Alvin Curran - Covidly Yours SL final-final

“Almost Unstuck, Covidly Yours”
A goodbye letter

Awsome, Biblical, Jaw-Dropping.. on day two they ran out of toilet paper – signs went
up : “Don’t even ask for it!” then the hand soaps, rubber gloves, hygenic-masks, and
swabs vanished – a few people my age remembered planting “Victory Gardens” to feed
America during WWII; we practiced air-raid drills in the dark, my aunt Honey became a
ship’s riveter. In glorious, gluten-free flowering Berkeley in March 2020, the empty
shelves in the supermakets looked like the day before the “day after”. All at once,
people stepped politely, boldly, embarassedly around one another as if the other were a
poisonous snake, a wild animal, a “walking dead.” Like en masse we’d just entered the
cinema, to watch “Covidly Yours” the movie of the year featuring everybody -
millions/trillions of us. On our mental calendars, the year 2020 was poised over thin-ice;
it became known as the year of the “New Normal.” After two-three weeks, hardly
anyone could remember what the “old normal” was - the one we thought to be an
insurance policy, a natural right; good old times when people normally let themselves
become sardines on public transport, (pickpockets thrived), people jammed themselves
in bars and restaurants, discos, stadiums, theaters, galleries, avantgarde dumps – the more
the merrier; in fact the last concert I gave at Harry Bernsteins house in Upper North
Berkeley had limited seating for 50, but 60 people crammed themselves in to hear a duo
for large gong and electrified shofar. Hugging anybody, even a stranger was not strange
at all. Now, the person coming toward you with or without a dog is a command to make
way, cross the street, just get away from this innocent soul; or in the Berkeley Bowl – the
woundrous natural food-world, when you have to ask someone to step aside, because
they are standing still contemplating ( a god given right) which of the 7 brands of quinoa
to purchase. You only want to grab a bag of brown rice on the next shelf - but you
withdraw or wait until the Quinoa contemplater makes their decision and leaves.
These daily new normals, heart-rending/ hateful as they are – reminders of our sudden
loss of free movement, speech, thought. Our “this land is our land” has been hijacked
and nobody’s asking for ransom. Yesterday while hiking on narrow trails in the beautiful
Manzanita goves of Huckleberry Wildlife Reserve, an oncoming hiker masked and
outraged yelled we too had to be masked – it was the law! - like bad children. we stood
there speechless, On the streets we only see UPS, Fedex, DHL and other trucks
delivering boxes of stir-fried everything, sushi, pizza even cases of wine and beer. On
TV we see the front line heroes and heroines and read the numbers of the dead and the
shocking tragic-comedy played out by the criminally insane drinking Lysol in the White
House. After nearly 3 months of being refugees, comfortably displaced in one of the
world’s most beautiful garden communities, we are about to return home ---knowing we
will have another 2 weeks of quarantine in Rome as soon as we open our door, but no
longer ‘displaced persons.’ Should we make it alive, we will invite you over for a drink,
dinner, a hug.

What did we do? First we were bewildered, then scared shitless, then we began to take
long soothing hikes in Tilden and nearby Nature Reserves above Berkeley and Oakland.
Here geology socks you right in the kisser, with the Redwoods, Manzanitas, hawks and
eagles views of foggy San Francisco and the mythic Golden Gate Bridge connected by
Cecil B. DeMille to Mount Tam. This fitness cure also seemed to sate our need for
eternal grandeur, splendor and the need to believe in something or in nothing
dispassionately. After three months of climbing and catching our breath, this skyline of
dreams became ours: always there, free of charge and as if waiting just for us.

At first, we liked it that there were no cars, hardly any people, the air so clean it could kill
you, no noise, only the distant romantic triadic-calls of the Amtrak train horns in the late
afternoon; they even set up hours when “seniors” (the alte Kakers) could shop without
having to wait in long lines; children, homeless, and ordinary citizens began to agitate -
some less some more; psychics and psychologists appeared on TV to advise “calm;” they
even had ads for raindrops (recorded ones) which were touted as being a sonic valerian
calmante; in a months time we even began to enjoy this semi-incarceration… only on
the radio and TV did we see the incessant terrifying charts of rising infections and death,
near death, presumed death, real death and public heroism of people killing death– on the
streets, (our streets - a botanical garden of brilliant explosive spring flowers) you saw
nothing, not even a stray cat. The blooms of the wild sages, Centanthus Rubers, Solanus,
Azelia, Agapanthus, Roses etc had only themselves to look at and admire.
What we did:
Susan carried on her medical practice advising patients in Rome on line….She also
carried out extensive research on the facts and follies of the Pandemic with her own
comparative charts focusing on Italy and the USA. Almost all of her timely predictions
came true, as blue and red lines ascended and descended over these initaially inflamed
months. Her crucial insights published weekly in her blog, www.stethoscopeonrome.com,
received world wide interest and praise.
Meanwhile, I threw myself into an autobiographical tizzy, deciding to start an extensive
recording project – entitled “ The Containment Etudes”- utilizing my current archive of
some 3000 plus sound files, which have been mapped to Midi-Keys - all accessible and
playable by me in any given moment –yes, a sonic biography some 50 years in the
making. With longish lapses, I have recorded some 5 hours of this material, using so far
an eighth of my files. This continues at its own pace, probably until the end of this year.
Having lost a lot of important gigs in this period… I found myself suddenly becoming a
FaceBooker Zoomer, and have done one major solo performance for Tonspur (see
https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=293900041641119 or http://www.tonspur.at/ ) which
inspite of crashing after ca. 45 minutes was universally thought to be “uplifting” – then a
small gig with 20 friends from the Glasgow Improvising Orchestra; a 20 minute
participation in Satie’s Vexations, for Satie Pandomie, kicking off a grand sequence of
124 other pianists worldwide. A 1 minute video contribution to Lee Renaldo’s
ISOLATION project;

And a substantial contribution to Cenk Ergün’s “Amore Vieni”
(https://cenkergun.bandcamp.com/track/amore-vieni-for-isolated-ensemble where
he invited friends to contribute single or multiple sounds which he “recomposed” in a
stunningly elegant piece of collective composition. A longish interview, Ric and Claudia
of Mutimago for their online radio series for the Teatro di Roma and finally made music
for Éric Baudelaire’s new video, The Glove, a magical 8 minute fantasy of a balloon
shaped glove bouncing through the streets of Paris, produced by the Onassis
Foundation’s Enter project…With 2 more online solos to be announced – one for the
Bang On a Can Marathon and one produced by Mauro Stocco from Treviso, Italy – I
leave you with some old-timers comments:
The moral of this story is Music On Line can work quite well as a surrogate for the real
thing i.e. live performance… It kinda looks and sounds like the real thing, but it ain’t got
no smell. And music without smell, the body heat, the temperature, the odors of rooms,
people, instruments, sweat, spit, food and drinks, just ain’t there yet – in short, our
auditory and olfactory senses really have to be there together in tandem with the
temperature of the music - so we know when it’s cookin’. Will the Silicon Valley kids
figure out that one? Or will the Internet remain the largest antiseptic concert hall in our
solar system?
Side Effects: My first Seder on Zoom, First time mourning a dear friend’s death, Richard
Teitelbaum, only by email; first making an apple-pie from scratch with Susan;
First looking at real-estate prices in Berkeley; first solo concert on FaceBook; first time
reading Shoshana Zuboff’s “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism;” First time getting
Susan to make a video of my mowing a lawn while playing a harmonica; First time
making myself into a jug-band; first time feeling so at home in California; first time
compelled to “making music with anything, anywhere anytime ;” first time thinking how
numbered my days were.
Special thanks to: Katherine Flegal and John Spitzer; Chris Brown; Edmond Campion;
Cenk Ergün, Sudhu Tewari; Georg Weckwerth; Eric Baudelaire; Angelo Farro; Robin
Rimbaud; Polly Quick and Judith Flory; Harry Bernstein; Charles Amirkhanian; Ken
Ueno; Ray MacDonald; Susan and Clark Coolidge; Lisa Onodera; Katherine Ogden
Michaels; Frederic Rzewski; the Del Sol String Quartet; Maxime Guitton; David
Bernstein; George Lewis and William Winant for making these three months in refugee-
camp – were it not for the immense surrounding tragedy - a near pleasure.
Alvin C
2215 Mc Gee st.
Berkeley CA
24. May 2020


Democratic, irreverent and traditionally experimental, Curran travels in a computerized covered wagon between the Golden Gate and the Tiber River, and makes music for every occasion with any sounding phenomena -- a volatile mix of lyricism and chaos, structure and indeterminacy, fog horns, fiddles and fiddle heads. He is dedicated to the restoration of dignity to the profession of making non-commercial music as part of a personal search for future social, political and spiritual forms.

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