|Old-Time Music Jam Session, courtesy Wikimedia Commons|
Live, participatory music-making is social, and the sociality of participatory music-making is threatened under the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve written extensively about how the sociality of making music together in groups such as the old-time jam session models participatory democracy, face-to-face exchanges in community, and a sound economy. Nowadays many of us are reduced to making music via Zoom, which on account of time delays built into the transmission of sound, is a poor substitute. Instead of all playing simultaneously in each other’s presence to create an emergent group sound that is greater than and different from the sum of its parts, we mute our microphones while playing along with a single unmuted leader who can’t hear what the others are doing. Nor can the non-leaders hear one another. Instead of participatory democracy we have a single leader and many followers. The followers can hear the leader but not each other. Leaders can only hear themselves. This is the opposite of the jam session ideal, socially and politically as well as musically.