How Music and the Arts Can Comfort Us During Challenging Times


It has been a difficult time for all of us during this COVID-19 health crisis. With so many people out of work and several businesses closed down, this pandemic has understandably created wide-spread panic and anxiety.

As a performing musician, this crisis has impacted me severely as all of my remaining concerts have been canceled. At Miami University, we were required to deliver our teaching online. I don't want to spend this post writing about the hardships that we all have faced and will face together. Instead, I want to talk about what we can do to stay strong and find sources of comfort in a rather challenging time.

For me, my escape is and has always been music. Lately, I have been using this opportunity to get ahead on learning new repertoire for the upcoming concert season. One of the pieces that I am learning right now is Chopin's Polonaise Fantasy, a work that the composer wrote during a period in his life that was marked in turmoil. Chopin's chronic respiratory issues were becoming increasingly more problematic with no near solution in sight. His tempestuous relationship with Aurore Dupin Dudevant, (AKA: George Sand, her pen name that appeared in many of her novels and memoirs) had ended a few years before. With no one to turn to, the composer had the realization that his end was near, which caused him a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. In fact, the opening melody of his Sonata for Cello and Piano, another work written around this time, bears striking resemblances to that of Schubert's song cycle, Winterreise, a story of a heartbroken man rejected by his love that leaves him wanderlust. With all of the uncertainty that we currently face, these works absolutely resonate with me. I have always said that I believe classical music can relate to our daily lives, even if the music was written in the distant past. This statement holds true more than ever.

Even though we are unable to go see a concert or live performance in person, many music and arts organizations are offering ways to consume their content online for free. Berlin Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, and the Met Museum of Art are among the many sources that I am currently enjoying to get my daily art fix. I hope you will do the same as it will be a great distraction and escape.

I hope you can find a little bit of comfort in this post. I plan to do my part as a musician and upload some videos of my performance in the coming weeks. Stay safe and healthy my friends!

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© 2020 by Frank Huang

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