Thrust upon us and upending so much of our lives, COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on some of the best and worst of human behavior. There’s plenty of fear, anxiety and suffering to go around, but one of the more inspiring silver linings to emerge has been the fact that for the talented and determined, creativity cannot be vanquished, only diverted in unexpected ways. While musicians have been shut out from doing live gigs, many have kept their audiences engaged via livestream – and some, like soprano turned electronic pop singer turned ambient/jazz/new age pianist Constance Hauman, have put out dynamic, insightful and hopeful projects that they could scarcely have imagined creating a year ago.
The new age genre has been blessed this year to have numerous instrumental albums that meet the moment, so to speak, sharing music that seems uniquely designed to calm our nerves and offer optimism through these challenging times. For some artists, that’s been coincidental, because many of these works were completed before the pandemic hit and our collective lockdown began. As its impactful title so eloquently indicates, The Quarantine Trilogy, Hauman’s uniquely engaging five track instrumental EP, was only partially recorded during the lockdown, but its meditative, sonically inventive and seductively grooving tracks seem uniquely designed to carry us through the inner and outer storms to another realm in our consciousness.
A little background: A world renowned classical singer, Hauman has over 2000 international performances to her credit, portraying over 70 different roles. Shifting gears in the late 2010s, her 2015 album Falling into Now showcased the pop side of her artistry amidst of blend of pop, jazz, orchestral and alternative blue-eyed soul vibes – a style she built upon on her 2019 album High Tides. She also served in numerous capacities for the indie rock-funk band Miss Velvet and The Blue Wolf. Launching an exciting new phase of her career with The Quarantine Trilogy, the album is a series of improvisations that originated with her on piano and her drummer and longtime collaborator Ross Pederson on midi drums and synth.
The two recorded four of the five tracks the week before the total lockdown in NYC – the atmospheric and deeply immersive “Panacea,”; the moody, film score lush and ominously titled “Total Lockdown”; the funky and hypnotic, groove intensive “Apollo,” which features some of Hauman’s most elegant and melodic piano magic; and the more intense and slightly chaotic (and perfectly titled!) “Thought I Was Gonna Lose It,” whose sensual piano melody and rich orchestrations float above an oddly metered, stop and start shuffle groove (perhaps to contrast our aspirations with our current jarring reality). Hauman and Peterson continued to work remotely. He took the drums he had laid down electronically and substituted live drums from home. His wife, bassist Julia Adamy, added her bottom to further deepen the rhythmic flow of “Apollo.”
The Quarantine Trilogy captures the zeitgeist of 2020 in another interesting way. As Hauman explains it, “Thought It was Going to Lose It” was an improv done a few months earlier in response to the news of Ahmaud Arbery being shot – and it became even more intense during the lockdown with the details emerging about his murder and the others that have changed the course of dialogue about race in this country. She initially released The Quarantine Trilogy on her label Isotopia Records May 29, but because of the murders of Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks, she decided to release The Quarantine Trilogy, the 2nd Wave with that track and also as a play on Trilogy (since she plans a “3rd wave”) and her personal realization that this was her second wave of creativity during the pandemic.
Hauman and Pederson recorded “Spirit,” the haunting, reflective and mystical eight minute closer of the original four track release, several years ago, on the full moon of January 13, 2017, which was also her birthday. When they finished, he asked her if she wanted to add lyrics or “song” to it. Hauman wistfully said there was only one voice she wanted to hear and that was President Obama’s. He had just given his farewell speech a few days before, so they found his speech online and imported it by putting the computer in the middle of the piano so the mics would pick it up. She picked eloquent pieces and parts and they added echo effects. The effect is so seamless that it feels like they had actually scored (and underscored!) elements of his speech rather than work it in.
“I had Ross take the applause and run it backwards so it would create the sound of a slamming door is it felt the end of Camelot,” Hauman says. “But now 3 years later, it felt appropriate to end Quarantine Trilogy with it as hope and maybe the door would open again. Obama's voice and words are so eerie given they were in his farewell and the place of darkness this country has gone to. A huge rainbow appeared over NYC a few weeks ago which is the hope his voice still gives right now.
“Collectively, I hope these tracks capture the fragility, poignancy and beauty of life, strength of the human spirit during a strange, unique and frightening time that is also an opportunity to reset our intentions as a society, a country, a city, individually, yes collectively; politically, economically, spiritually. Reset our relationships to each other, to nature, to our inner and outer worlds.”
Listen to The Quarantine Trilogy here: https://open.spotify.com/album/4RScNoFniMSxablNhZqyQY