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A reflection on In C

Written by Joseph Puglia

The below text has been written by our violinist Joseph Puglia, in which he reflects on our project In C: a global play along. When we suddenly became tied to our living rooms, we were looking for ways to connect with musicians worldwide. This resulted in a recording of over 40 musicians playing from their own living rooms, together.

When our first lockdown was announced, many of my fellow-musicians were searching for a way to connect with each other, and with our audience. Many told me that they lost a part of themselves when they couldn’t perform. Our In C project was an attempt, not only to reconnect with each other, but to experiment with a great piece through a new medium.

This recording was never intended to be a professional product, but rather a way for people to connect with each other. It includes musicians from all levels playing together – professionals, amateurs, students, teachers, young and old, across the ocean and around Europe. Everyone recorded in quarantine, with whatever equipment they had available,. Sometimes that was an iPhone or tablet, sometimes even in a Zoom chat. And the process of recording itself made for a truly unique version of the piece. Our at-home microphones meant that many details of musical communication came across very differently in this “quarantine version” than they would in a concert, or even in a studio recording. (And after realizing this, I took that as a lesson about all electronic communication our lives right now.) And after all of the recordings were submitted, we searched for a way to combine the varied musical submissions of everyone into one piece.

Paula Ruiz Reynes and Kaan Yazici, two sound engineering students from the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, worked tirelessly, not only to blend and balance the recordings, but also to create a musical structure in this performance. In a way, they became “arrangers” of the music along with me, deciding whether or not we wanted to highlight groups of instruments or individual sounds at different points throughout the recording, helping to make waves of sound throughout different sections of the piece, and finding a blend to all of the voices which try to make it sound like everyone is playing in the same room, even though we all recorded in different cities on different days, with different microphones.

John Cage once said that experimental music was music in which “the outcome was not foreseen”. When we started this In C project, we had no idea how it would develop. The musical experiment which we started was essentially one of communication. How could we communicate artistically in a time when people couldn’t even leave their homes? How would the “quarantine version” of Terry Riley’s In C be different from all of the live performances and studio recordings made over the years? I hope that as you listen, your own answers to these questions will be as diverse as the people who participated in the recording itself.


Photo by Eduardus Lee