Every week, we ask a different local artist to provide their unique perspective on the pandemic experience from a musician’s point of view. Through words, video and music, each musician will share their story, along with an audio or video sample of a recent project, and a link to purchase their music so that you can support their work.
This week, Karen Ng talks about discovering the value of sitting still, embracing the space and time for new artistic endeavours, and finding new perspectives on recording and composing.
"It's hard to fully articulate the enormous impact of this time, and what it means to not be able to gather. Everything I do, every aspect of it is based on people and community and the experiences that come with that. Every part of the fragile ecosystem that is my musical world - rehearsing/working on music with friends, touring/travelling to make music, booking shows to connect people locally and from afar, going to bars and venues to hang out and discover new things - has come to a complete halt. The weight of that feels so surreal - it feels like I'm living someone else's life right now, and I suppose I've been kind of treating it that way. I mean - I want to embrace this time as a space where other things, new things should and can happen, as opposed to chasing the things that I know can't be right now. I've watched friends use this time to put towards beautiful social justice initiatives like ESN (The Encampment Support Network) or create community functions like SouSou (a local performance series which generates funds for artists and community members to access if and when they need - check them out on Instagram). Or friends who have been tending to their families or making new ones. Those things can feel like they make a lot more sense than say, figuring out how to release an album in the current climate (though I'm also grateful to be enjoying so much amazing music that's been released recently). For me personally, putting my time and energy in other places feels more fulfilling somehow right now. I'd rather wait than force what doesn't feel right.
In my waiting, my life has become very introspective and reflective, because I actually have the mental/emotional space and time for it now! I literally came off of living on a tour bus for a month into this - I'm realizing that there are experiences in recent years I haven't been able to fully process til now. I know many people have echoed a similar sentiment, that our lives were so busy prior to the pandemic that this has come to be a welcome and much needed restful time . It was extremely important for me to learn and understand the value of sitting still and being alone. I'm not sure I truly knew how to do either of those things before this! And it made me wonder why I felt compelled to always fill my time with things. I now have a very cozy and calm existence where my only goals for the day might be to play some guitar and roll around on the floor. I find comfort in the collectiveness of what we are experiencing - knowing that everyone is at a stand still in some form or another gave me permission to do the same guilt free. I guess it speaks to the incredible pressure we sometimes put on ourselves to be productive all the time.
I took a full dive into home recording (something I've wanted to do anyway) and have been lucky and grateful to be a part of a number of projects because of it (a large scale project involving improvisers from Vancouver and Amsterdam; a rotating compostion/recording project with bandmates Phil Melanson and Chris Willes; various tracking on friends' albums; and things for myself of course). A funny feeling to be zapping sounds and ideas all over the place from my little room here. As an improviser it's been an incredible experience to explore recording as a space for creation and not purely as a means for documentation. The process of revisiting ideas daily is something I've never really done before - the ability to have a daily routine prior to shutdown really wasn't a thing in my life. It's felt very similar to the process of composing except that the medium in which it's happening for me isn't paper and ink. Most of the composing I've done has always been for specific players, so without the prospect of getting to hear it with those people I wasn't feeling as compelled to compose in that way. The results have been a kind of music that doesn't really sound the way I usually do, which is very exciting! Though it is definitely a 'kind' of music, I really miss the other kind of music that is made, with real live human beings, in a room with other real live human beings listening. It's helpful to be reminded that this time, while extremely hard, is temporary. It'll take time for the world to sort itself out, but this won't last forever, things will change, slowly but surely. It will no doubt be very interesting as we all slowly emerge from our cocoons."
Support Karen by purchasing her music from Bandcamp: karenng.bandcamp.com.
Karen's recent musical projects have yet to be released; here's a video from the January, 2020 Open Waters Festival in Halifax: