From a New York Times story headlined “‘Joy in the Grief’: Musicians Are Making Art in a Pandemic”:

John Adams, composer

My wife and I, we’re in our 70s; we’re hunkered down. I’m just so humbled by these stories of the health care workers. A friend of mine sent me a photo of tents going up in Central Park, and said how it reminded him of my setting of Walt Whitman’s “The Wound-Dresser” — since that memory Whitman had was of tents that were erected on the National Mall.

In terms of any potential artistic response, what comes to mind is a quote from Wordsworth, about poetry being “emotion recollected in tranquillity.” I think people imagine that artists are combing the headlines for an idea. But I think, at least in my case, if I have a response, it would have to come at a time when I feel that tranquillity.

Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor and composer

This week, I’m trying to finish a happy song. I’ve got this song in progress, which is based on one my father and I used to perform as a duet when I was 5 or 6. When either of us were feeling down, we could play this. It didn’t have words; you’d whistle it. I’ve tried to add encouraging words. We’re in the “home, home on the range” period: “where seldom is heard a discouraging word.”

Jaap van Zweden, musical director, New York Philharmonic

It is wonderful to have all the time in the world for new scores. One I am learning is the Kurtag opera, “Fin de Partie,” that we are giving the American premiere of next season. And then I picked up a violin somebody loaned me. I’m planning this week to practice and get a little bit in shape again and play the Bach partitas. Not only is it incredible music, and fantastic for your technique, but the healing factor is there. Whenever I play Bach, he makes me the most happy person in the world. Somehow he has the ability to clean you inside.

The third thing is that I am starting, very carefully, to write a piece myself. If the piece is ready, maybe I can call it composing. Before that I want to be extremely modest: I first want to see if what comes out is OK.

Meredith Monk, composer

It did take me a while to settle down and get my routine and discipline. Little by little I’m quieting down, working on material. I’m vocalizing every day; I’m doing physical exercises every day.

I’m working on a gigantic new piece, so it’s giving me some time. in a way it’s the third piece of a trilogy about our relationship to nature. The working title is “Indra’s Net”; it’s concert music slash music theater and also an installation.

Once I got over having my meltdown about being all alone, I was grateful. Even if you’re grieving, you can create — and there can be moments of joy in the grief.

Mitsuko Uchida, pianist

When I play music, I can forget about the virus. I am continuing with Beethoven’s “Diabelli” Variations, which I was meant to record at the end of April; every day, I do a run-through so I can keep it close to me. I am also making programs for the next seasons: Mozart, Kurtag, late Schumann.

The other day, I read through Janacek and Bartok. If this goes on for a long time, I will go back to Chopin that I haven’t done in years. Composers are very jealous. I have been too involved with German music, and Chopin was very cross the last time I tried to play his music. So I will try to take some effort and love with him.

I am perfectly happy just playing alone. Most people need the public; I am actually very happy without. And I love to be able to play badly.

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