The Sound of Precarity: Musical Labor During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic

A Liberal Arts Engagement Hub Residency

Music has been around for over 35,000 years. A staple of all cultures, it’s important for music to remain relevant and accessible to everyone. COVID has put that immediacy and availability at risk.  How can artists surmount pandemic-induced increased expense, reduced venue capacities, and limited audience access?

The Sound of Precarity: Musical Labor During and After the COVID-19 Pandemic orients itself around the local music scene and plans to combat issues made apparent since quarantining. While it is likely that music has changed forever, through their residency time with The Hub, The Sound of Precarity plans to spread stories, music, and experiences to people on and off the University of Minnesota campuses.

The plan is to give musicians a chance to talk about the effects of the pandemic on their lives and livelihoods, give musicians an opportunity to perform in front of live and virtual audiences, document and preserve local musical culture via audio and video recording, and provide University of Minnesota students, faculty, and staff, as well as the broader public, opportunities to learn about musicians’ lived experiences and hear them perform.

The Hub space is important to those within this residency because it provides much-needed physical space for artists and viewers alike. The space provides a much-needed area for artists to perform in at the heart of the UMN campus. Because of the pandemic, venues that would have provided spaces for performers before have been slow to come back, taking away areas in which musicians can share their art. Having The Hub area for artists to support each other and reflect is also very important. It is key to have a space in which artists will be able to talk about what it was like to have their livelihoods nearly vanish as well as dream about the future.

Performances in The Hub will grant access to free live music that some students and faculty may have been unable to get to previously. With other venues having to limit their attendance, low-income students and staff would have increased difficulty attending those concerts, so the free shows at The Hub are made extra important. Additionally, hybrid live and streamed events will increase the engagement on campus in this hopeful but still uncertain time.

This project opens the door for many people to access new experiences previously unavailable to them before the opportunity afforded through The Hub. Musicians will be encouraged to take stock of where they’re at now and to envision future possibilities. The Sound of Precarity will bring hope and joy to students and faculty through musical and cultural integration during a time when it is needed more than ever.

The Liberal Arts Engagement Hub

This project is one of The Hub Residencies for the 2021-22 academic year. The Liberal Arts Engagement Hub seeks to facilitate reciprocal and trusting partnerships between humanistic scholars in the arts, humanities, and social sciences and the community to respond to important social challenges.

Hub Residency partners in this project include: Sumanth Gopinath, School of Music; Teresa Gowan, Department of Sociology; and Elizabeth Hartman, Department of American Studies.

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