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UCLA musicians maximize newfound time by pursuing new projects, art forms

UCLA students and alumni have been branching out into new areas of music and honing their skills in order to express themselves and their thoughts during quarantine. (Naveed Pour/Daily Bruin)

By Vivian Xu

April 16, 2020 6:03 p.m.

Though the world may be on pause, musicians play on.

In a world in isolation, UCLA musicians – students and alumni alike – continue to hone their craft. A lifestyle often characterized by solitude has been the source for many musicians’ sudden boost in creativity. Similarly, artists are using the extra time that comes with staying indoors to pursue new projects like music production or venturing into different forms of composition. Fourth-year communication student Krista Apardian said this space for self-reflection encourages her to create music as a form of catharsis.

“I honestly find myself being way more creative than usual because there’s no social temptation to go hang out with friends or things like that,” Apardian said. “It’s also a time that kind of forces being introspective upon you.”

Social isolation can prompt contemplation, which has been ideal for creativity, Apardian said. Aside from continuing her songwriting and recording ideas in her home setup, she said she is working to become more self-sufficient as an artist, which includes producing her own music. A brief pause from the hectic nature of everyday life resulted in the most opportune time to experiment with doing so, she said.

“I always enjoyed production, but now I’m in the phase of actually producing my own stuff,” Apardian said. “This has been the perfect time for me to explore my voice as a producer because I already understand and know what my voice is as a writer and a vocalist.”

[Related: Scattered Bruins: International students from China explore new art forms while in isolation]

As a vocalist performing under the name Krista Marina, she was originally scheduled to perform at Fowler Out Loud on April 8, which has since been converted to a livestream. Though Apardian said this new medium may limit her ability to connect with her audience by making eye contact or feeding off its energy, she hopes that it will be a more intimate performance.

With national stay-at-home orders, such livestreams garner increasing popularity among artists who still seek a way to share live music. Caroline Pernick, a third-year musical theater student, has performed original music in student-organized concerts and open mics on platforms like Zoom, Facebook Live and Twitch. Regardless of the platform, Pernick said the online medium, combined with peoples’ recently cleared schedules and the simple logistics of playing from home, unites a much more diverse group of artists than physical performances.

“The reach is just bigger – the net can be cast wider in terms of who is there,” Pernick said. “It’s been really cool to see everyone in one place at one time because, for the first time, we have no excuse not to be.”

Since the beginning of quarantine, Pernick said she has noticed a significant spike in activity and collaboration in the arts community. Many musicians are trying to raise societal morale by continuing to create, she said, which has inspired her to write songs more. Using this newfound free time, Pernick said she is challenging herself to arrange an hourlong set of original music to share in performances after quarantine.

For other musicians like alumna Robin Li, it has been a privilege to use this extra time to process life through music, she said. Being forced to stay home has allowed her to return to piano composition, which she said she quit three years ago. Yet after so long, Li said writing piano music continues to be a key method of expressing herself and her thoughts.

“(My music represents) what I’ve been seeing in daily life – I guess I want to digest it,” Li said. “You’ve been seeing a lot in 2020. People are suffering and we were forced to quarantine. There’s a lot going on and you want to express your feelings.”

[Related: Second Take: Online live performances proliferate, revitalize highly restrictive music industry]

The opportunity to slow down and reflect has also granted Li the chance to seriously pursue her goal of composing film scores, she said. With her current repertoire of original piano music as a starting point, Li said she uses GarageBand to practice converting her solo pieces into orchestral arrangements. Her musical background is exclusively in piano, but she said she is teaching herself orchestral composition using YouTube videos.

“There’s a lot for me to learn,” Li said. “I’ve never played strings or woodwinds. I (only) hear music of how these instruments are played and how they would accompany a piano. (But) we have this opportunity to quarantine, … (in which) you probably want to improve some skills.”

Whether it is branching out into new areas of music or working on long-term artistic goals, many musicians are seeking to maximize the benefits of their time in quarantine. The drive to create is at the core of their actions, Pernick said, even though conditions may not be ideal.

“It’s all under the purpose of still continuing to create art and cultivate creativity in a time where we’re all shut in our houses,” Pernick said. “But that’s the really nice thing about being an artist – you don’t lose your craft because it’s always with you.”

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Vivian Xu | Assistant Arts editor
Xu is the current Music | Fine Arts editor of the Daily Bruin. She previously served as an Arts & Entertainment reporter from 2019-2020. Xu is also a news contributor, writing under the National News & Higher Education beat. She is a second-year neuroscience student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Xu is the current Music | Fine Arts editor of the Daily Bruin. She previously served as an Arts & Entertainment reporter from 2019-2020. Xu is also a news contributor, writing under the National News & Higher Education beat. She is a second-year neuroscience student from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
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