Throughout the pandemic, new music has never been hard to come by. Despite the unprecedented restrictions on movement and social contact, artists have miraculously continued to churn out projects. How have the national lockdowns contributed to this spate of creativity?
Little Simz released her latest EP, Drop 6, back in May. The EP, which was written, recorded and produced entirely in the month leading up to its release, was one of the first projects to be born out of the national lockdown. Undoubtedly, the unique limitations presented by the pandemic have left a subtle yet essential imprint on the record.
In the past, self-isolation has just been another technique of limitation
Limitations have proved themselves a valuable creative tool throughout music history. It’s said that Mozart used to juggle dice to randomly generate his next melody, whilst Kurt Cobain famously made use of cheap gear in the studio. A legendary moment of creativity occurred when A Guy Called Gerald’s low-memory sampler forced him to shorten his “voodoo rage” sample into “voodoo ra(y)” as he crafted his seminal acid house hit.
In the past, self-isolation has just been another technique of limitation. Visual artist Georgia O’Keefe spent summers locked down in her “Ghost Ranch” in New Mexico, using the solitude as a chance to reflect, free of distractions. The desert landscapes she produced during these periods are vast and completely devoid of civilisation. What is interesting is that Little Simz’s Drop 6 often conveys a similar sense of starkness, despite being produced in North London.
The ever-presence of the lockdown has rendered solitude a necessity rather than a creative tool for artists such as Little Simz
Of course, the two situations differ dramatically: O’Keefe’s isolation was a conscious decision. Conversely, the ever-presence of the lockdown has rendered solitude a necessity rather than a creative tool for artists such as Little Simz. This distinction is perhaps exemplified by Simz choosing to title the first track of Drop 6 ‘might bang, might not’. With the option of face-to-face collaboration removed, knowing how a track is going to be received is practically impossible. These uncertainties were discussed in a recent Q&A.
Although social distancing and isolation does present an opportunity for uninterrupted creativity, many musicians’ first concern will be financial stability. Gigging is off the table for the time being, and the majority of artists won’t be able to pay their way via streaming revenue. Having said that, artists are more than used to navigating a hypercapitalistic world which pushes them to the fringes by its very nature – the lockdown is just the latest obstacle that they must overcome.
As the UK Government plans to tumble out of national restrictions over the coming months, the full extent of the impact of the pandemic will slowly be revealed. It will also be interesting to see how musicians respond to their newfound freedom, and how their creativity fares as a result. One thing we can expect is that self-isolation won’t be at the top of any artist’s creative technique list for a long time to come!