Improvised music is full of contradictions. It’s both a spontaneous and a practiced form of expression: a real-time and premeditated art form. It’s a generous offering to the listener and a self-serving act for the individual musician. Improvisation is as carnal as it is cerebral, and the roles of the performer and audience are ever entangled.

Completed within the two challenging and limiting months of Covid-19 quarantine, the students in Professor Kwami Coleman’s Spring 2020 Arts Workshop “Music Improvisation: Concepts and Practice” present Quarantunes, a genre-bending recording meant to inspire, reflect, and validate the ineffable sentiments of these unprecedented and overwhelming times. Revolving around the class’s central theme of the “Improvisative” (a theory proposed by music scholar Tracy McMullen), we sought the spontaneous expression and interchange of musical ideas, between individual performers and now you, our audience, in a way that draws from the circumstances of the immediate present. We decided to create and publicly share this album in lieu of the live performance scheduled at the semester’s end.

Quarantunes on SoundCloud

Link to Quarantunes on Soundcloud
Album art by Cameron Centrella and Noah Guerin
The track credits are as follows:
  1. [00:00] Nairobi Hilaire Seabrooks — “Guidebook Gone” (feat. Kwami Coleman)
  2. [01:50] IZ Burns — “Escape” (feat. Jackson, Jalen, Cam, Noah, Brianna, and Chloe)
  3. [05:13] Brianna Sung —”Quara Aura” (feat. IZ, Jackson, Reid, Surabhi, and Jalen)
  4. [07:54] Cameron Centrella — “untitled” (features unspecified) 
  5. [11:34] Kat Liu — “Stuck Inside My Head” (feat. Jalen, IZ, Miranda, and Dizzee Rascal)
  6. [13:55] Jackson Plut — “untitled” (feat. Miranda, Kat, Sam, Reid, Myles, and IZ)
  7. [17:11] Noah Guerin — “People’s Dome” (features unspecified)
  8. [21:19] Nairobi Hilaire Seabrooks — “Socially Distant” (feat. Kwami Coleman)
  9. [22:17] Miranda Levingston — “Seven PM” (feat. Reid, Cameron, Jalen, Noah)
  10. [25:58] Reid Sherman — “You Know” (feat. Jackson, Jalen, Chloe, Myles and IZ)
  11. [28:50] Chloe Parker — “Jazz It Up” (feat. Jackson, Niah, Surabhi, Brianna, and IZ)
  12. [31:30] Sam Colman — “Float” (feat. Jackson, Jalen, IZ, Chloe; co-produced by Joe Simmons)
  13. [34:11] Myles Jackson — “Quarantine Tunage” (feat. Miranda and IZ)
  14. [37:51] Jalen Sariñana Edington — “Wasted” (feat. Reid, IZ, Miranda, Surabhi, Jackson, Noah, and Myles)
  15. [41:30] Surabhi Raj — “Wild Air” (feat. Miranda, Noah, Reid, Chloe, and IZ)
  16. [43:47] Nairobi Hilaire Seabrooks — “Throne Tone” (feat. Kwami Coleman)

Planned over a number of Zoom sessions, which included several (virtual) digital audio production (DAW) workshops, Quarantunes is a bass-heavy, live-vocal- and sample-driven album, comprised of each individual student artist’s interpolation of lyrics, harmonies, melodies, and rhythms submitted by their fellow classmates. We had only the key (A-minor) and tempo (120 bpm) as agreed upon parameters, and each member of our class submitted three fragments of music, organized by category (melody, harmony, rhythm), and a set of lyrics over Google Drive. Some of these fragments were then selected and manipulated by each member of the class for their unique song, making the finished pieces an amalgamation of our collective creative thinking and musical talent. It’s this collaborative effort that contributed to the variety of sound you’ll hear here in spite of the otherwise basic parameters (and we like to think of our tracks as being musical mad-libs). The diverse and collaborative nature of this project—where the final tracks were generated both through improvisation and collaboration—has made our album really one of its own stylistic kind.

We recognize the unique power of live, in-person performance, but the current pandemic made such a thing impossible. As a result, this album was a new way of collaborating with each other from afar in the same way that so many people across the world have had to in these last two months. As the world remains in an existentially unpredictable state, we see improvisation as a necessary tool for survival, and it was our goal for this project to capture exactly that ideal. If you’re looking for a sonic life-raft to withstand the proverbial storm, please accept our humble offering of genre-bending sounds that traverse the harmonious, the dissonant, the soulful, and the heavy-hitting. These pieces are composed of the sounds of life under quarantine that held us steadfast. We hope our offering can be of help to you too.

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