Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Toronto composer and pianist Frank Horvat observed fellow musicians struggling to cope with loss, precarity triggered by cancelled gigs and the strain of isolation. Wondering how to effectively respond, his answer: write new compositions to counter self-isolation. Thus, during the spring of 2020 he composed 31 short classical-style pieces, shared immediately with the international community on social media. They were an instant hit. Numerous performance videos were posted on the Internet and Horvat made plans to record them on the album Music for Self-Isolation at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. The session wrapped the day before Ontario’s stay-at-home order came into force on January 14, 2021. The album also includes the ensemble composition Together in Spirit, using overdubbing technology to effectively bring together the 22 talented musicians who played solos and duos on the other tracks of Music for Self-Isolation.
Part two of the album comprises eight nuanced The Idea of North-style audio documentaries titled Pandemic Stories. These layered monologues, each by a different musician, are deeply personal stories about impacted careers and lives during the pandemic, accompanied by Horvat’s instrumental music. The aim: to present “the hopes, dreams and fears,” of each musician, and their views on the arts and culture sector, “in order to heal and move forward together.”
Taking the two sections together – the 32 music miniatures and eight audio reports – the 40-track Music for Self-Isolation offers accessible, soothing music, plus international voices of resilience during this time of plague. The album reminds us that music is among the most mysterious and highest order of human skills.