“Venturing out”: Post-pandemic Perspectives on Music at Grace

Caution: Some of the embedded recordings below contain language that some listeners may find objectionable

The withdrawal of the pandemic coaxed New York City’s dormant culture out of hiding, bringing a return to massive music festivals, small basement shows, and the vibrance of the city’s indie scene. Yet, for many, the most dramatic changes in taste and relationship with music occurred during self-isolation. Students saw their relationship with the artform radically transform as most grew closer to music, expanded their taste to encompass more lesser-known artists, or even picked up an instrument. The Gazette surveyed students about their new perspectives on music and the metamorphoses of their tastes.

The pandemic provided students with an exceptional amount of time to explore, connect with, and enjoy music. Eli Nelson ‘23 asserts that this was because “all social interaction was cut off and done away with” during the most isolating periods of the pandemic. With more time to truly discover what he wanted to listen to, Joshua Magazine’22 finally “ventured out” of his self-described “stagnant” music taste. 

Music also provided an emotional outlet for some students, allowing listeners to — in the words of David Carley ‘24 — “feel something…instead of listening to it for the pure sake of it sounding good.” Carley shared that his music taste has expanded “incredibly”. He “never expected” to listen to much of the music he now enjoys, one of his recent favorite findings being “Sawayama” by Rina Sawayama.  

The solitude of the pandemic also provided some students with a chance to pore over music theory, allowing them to understand music on a deeper level. Nelson explained how, in the absence of external distractions, he found himself “parsing through every lyric and note.” Magazine added to this sentiment, noting his recent interest in math rock—a genre defined by its “odd time signatures, technical playing, and things that keep the mind active while you’re listening.” He recommended the group Polyphia, and specifically their song Saucy for those interested in exploring the genre. For Magazine, having “learned about how to analyze music and what made music sound so good” transformed his listening experience. He now pays closer attention to technical elements like key signatures, tempos, time signatures, and chord progressions. Others found time to refine their skills as a musician, perfecting instruments like the guitar and the drums. In the words of Magazine, “I’m not the same musician in terms of skill and in terms of taste.”

Live music has also returned to New York City, with the recent Governor’s Ball Festival being a widely-attended event amongst Grace students. Despite some hesitancy to return to such a highly populated event, impressions were extremely positive. Carley described the festival as “highly exceeding my expectations” with performers’ energy being exceptionally high for their first live appearances since the pandemic. Some students felt anxiety over attending a large event with little to no social-distancing practices in place — “big crowds kinda freak me out” — but, because of careful procedures to allow entry for only the vaccinated or virus-tested, “the vibe overtook that,” said Carley.

Looking toward the future, the radical changes in taste and relationship with music during the pandemic have provided the Grace community and music world at large with fresh genres and artists to watch out for. According to Nelson, Vince Staples’s self-titled album and Kanye West’s Donda — he urges readers to listen to it “even if you don’t like Kanye, or rap in general” — have been favorite recent releases. Look out for Vince Staples’s tour coming to Madison Square Garden in March. Nelson has also been enjoying The Kills — a “darker garage rock band” who recently released the single “Cosmic Dancer”. David Carley recommends Joji, performing in NYC in November, and his latest album “Nectar”: a “great experience all the way through…has some hype, but also slow, but also poppy, but also R&B, but also pop, but also hip-hop.” Math Rock, a favorite genre of many students at Grace, seems poised for a comeback since its heyday in the 90s. Along with Magazine’s favorite Polyphia, Black Midi (who recently sold out a live appearance near Grace) and Chon are increasingly popular Math Rock groups.The future of music both within the Grace community and New York City looks promising — and even exciting.