1. Danny Vena, "Zoom Is Helping Schools Closing Due to Coronavirus—for Free," The Motley Fool, March 14, 2020, https://www.fool.com/investing/2020/03/14/zoom-is-helping-schools-closing-due-coronavirus-fo.aspx.


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                -  Études for the beginning of an online practice 

Josh Spear

The Covid-19 pandemic of early 2020 has had huge and wide-reaching effects. My group Bastard Assignments, made up of four composer-performers, was not exempt. We were compelled to continue to make work—the difference now is that we are online in our individual homes and meeting each other on Zoom.


Zoom is a company that has been around since 2011 and a lot of us have recently become familiar with it in order to celebrate birthdays at a distance, catch up with friends, or conduct our business. It was setup by a Chinese computer scientist who only secured his visa to live in the USA after his ninth attempt at the application.


Since the beginning of 2020 the worldwide usage of Zoom has risen 67%, with its use ranging from corporate communications to domestic and arts activities.1


My compositional and performance work with Bastard Assignments is rooted in collaboration, devising, and group creation. It favours memorisation over the use of musical scores, and emotional presence over reproducibility. As we take our collaborative work into a purely online workspace, important questions arise. Through a new way of working online, does our adaptability bring about a new form? How will we understand this online work when and if normalcy returns? Skills that we learn as composer-performers are dropped, remade, and tested during this period—how will our practice have changed?

This research has been carried out as part of an artistic research PhD at NMH.

The reflexive nature of being a composer-performer:


The account of this practice is the context and starting point for working in this way and for working with Bastard Assignments. I mention a work of mine from 2016, “Planet Dysphoria,” to illustrate the composer-performer continuum.



Devising and group work:


Through my 2019 piece “FEED,” made with Bastard Assignments, I introduce the notion of devising and describe the key advantages that I have unearthed through working in this way. I have tried to bring these discoveries with me into the initial stages of working online with Bastard Assignments.



Beginning of Lockdown Jams:


This article reflects on the period between March and May 2020 when all of the videos mentioned were made. These form part of our Lockdown Jams project. For me, it was an exploration of creating with counterpoint as my trajectory and I felt it important to present all the videos. The others in the group had different interests and I do not present those here. From June 2020 onwards we commissioned an exciting list of artists to make Lockdown Jams with and for us: Elaine Mitchener, Oliver Dawe and Alan Fielden, Alexander Schubert, Jennifer Walshe, Lea Anderson, Thick and Tight, Mocrep, Michael Brailey, Marcela Lucatelli, Neil Luck, and id m theft able. These were supported by Arts Council England and are viewable online. Again, I do not present those here but rather present my initial ideas and experiments from working with Bastard Assignments on Zoom as an important and exploratory phase that fed into the commissioned works.



Adaptive practice in the context of “Occam Ocean”:


Using Radigue’s oeuvre from the last decade, I show that preparation for performance is a life-long work if so desired and not limited to those within “The New Discipline” (a concept I explain further below). I try to summarise where this experience has left me.