We are glad to continue posting more interviews with different profiles related to the lute (professional musicians, teachers, societies, luthiers ...) with the main intention of highlighting the impact of COVID on the particular activity of this sector.
I hope this can help to put a spotlight on the situation of this very small segment of the music sector.
If you are interested on posting your own point of view, your initiatives or the difficulties that have arisen, do not hesitate to contact me.
Ariel Abramovich was one of the very first lutenists to answer our questions. We are more than glad to count on his for this interview.
First of all, thanks Ariel for sharing your experience during this difficult time.
The pandemic in Europe locked us all up in our houses around March 2020, in what situation were the Lute Society at that moment and what do you remember from the first moments?
The pandemic caught me on a tour of the Canary Islands and Madrid, about to travel to France just the day after the lockdown announcement here in Spain.
I remember the feeling of unreality, all the confusing and contradictory information posted everywhere and the shameful behaviour of some people, buying toilet paper like crazy, among other scenes of human misery.
... after a few weeks, the restrictions become the new normality and everything indicates that we will spend several months with a very limited activity, first, and with severe restrictions later. How does this situation impact your planning and your projects?
Starting from March 2020, all my schedule was canceled inmediately.
The economic impact has been brutal, leading me to a situation quite similar to the last economic crisis, with the addition of everything else that we have been experiencing since the beginning of the pandemic.
Anyway, I found the motivation to practice on a daily basis which kept me more or less healthy, at least from a mental health perspective.
Right after the first weeks of shock, alternative ways to continue the activity in a non-face-to-face way begin to appear, what initiatives, ideas, projects do you find at that time to continue your activity?
None. I don’t think music should or can happen only by videoconference tools.
There are a lot of things that DO NOT happen in a streaming, or in a zoom class or, for example, in a medical appointment over the phone.
The presence, the body, the gestures are essential in what we do, music, and also in most of our activities as human beings.
Do you think that the new ways of working that emerged in 2020 will be permanent? To what degree do you think you will continue to develop activities in this same way?
I don’t think there are new ways of teaching or playing. Streaming and remote sessions already existed and I think they are just complementary to our regular activity.
My opinion is very clear in this aspect: a musical event is only possible when performed live. Then we have plenty of different ways to record music, which is also a different and complementary way to reach out our audience.
I cannot and do not want to reinforce the idea that what we do can be done from home, using a 200€ microphone and begging for voluntary contributions through PayPal.
I understand that necessity has pushed the sector to do it, but we already know that concerts are safe, they are necessary and there is no reason for them to cease to exist.
In general, perhaps more pronounced way in Spain, the focus has been on the difficulties of certain sectors in the face of COVID, such as the hospitality industry, but I consider that music has been the great forgotten. What have you missed during this time regarding institutions or society? Do you think things could have been done differently?
I think that the society is not responsible for supporting a specific sector at such a time.
Instead, this support must come from the government and the public institutions to which we supposedly delegate that responsibility.
Regarding the institutions, they were absolutely consistent with the way they have always been with us, musicians: we were once again ignored.
But the saddest thing to acknowledge these times is the weaknesses of a group that is not organized, does not have a union structure, is not supportive with its colleagues.
It was shameful to see colleagues “performing” in social media, celebrating nonexistent successes, counting likes on FB and YT, showing how they made bread with sourdough or push-ups, while their profession literally was disappearing.
One year later ... how does 2021 look for you? Is the pre-covid activity being reactivated?
Well, the year started with a lot of activity, at least something that we can call regular activity.
Let’s hope that the absurdity of online concerts will not be the new normality and that, with all the security measures that are working at this point, we can simply continue living.
Can you tell us about what projects you have underway and also how we can support your activity?
I have just recorded the second album of my ensemble, “Armonía Concertada”, co-hosted with the soprano María Cristina Kiehr and now with the tenor Jonatan Alvarado.
It is an album dedicated to the music of Josquin, from the perspective of the “vihuelistas”. A totally new way of approaching the polyphony of the “master of the notes”, always from a respectful position and with academic rigor.
In addition to buying the album, there are many ways to support our activity: come to the concerts, follow us on the social networks (which serve to make what we do visible, precisely), help spread what we are doing among the contacts, etc.
Thanks again for your time Ariel and all best for the next months. Take care.
I would like to remind the youtube channel where you can find more information about Ariel's activity.
Also this recent video where argentine early music specialists Jonatan Alvarado and Ariel Abramovich explore a beautiful, mysterious musical manuscript compiled in northwest Guatemala in the late sixteenth century.