William Tyler: “A Good Reminder in Patience and Acceptance”
In advance of his Duke Performances livestream concert this Wednesday, we asked guitarist and composer William Tyler to reflect on how the coronavirus crisis has impacted his work, and what he is finding reassuring.
We know artists are deeply impacted by COVID-19, both in their artistic career and in side gigs in other industries dependent on social interaction. Can you give us some insight into what has changed for you?
The whole gig economy world—I mean let’s be honest—most of the global first world economy sputtered to a halt in a matter of days and weeks. I think after the initial shock and disappointment of having months of touring, etc., canceled it just sank in. Our instant ‘land of plenty’ economy doctrine is a tenuous a balance, or even an illusion. We take so much for granted without thinking of germ exchange: freedom of travel, touring, being in groups of strangers. It’s as if every big and small thing I took for granted about my own privilege and life—at least as a working artist—basically changed on March 10 or 11.
Has your artistic practice been affected?
I’m trying to make time for long-distance collaborations and projects. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a lot of the last three weeks has simply been taken up with trying to safely buy groceries, monitoring the news, and trying to find some escape. I don’t feel a particular drive to ‘create’ right now but I also recognize the fact that I am able to stay at home and have the luxury of reflection while so many brave people are literally out there fighting this thing. It’s just such a jarring disconnect. I am sure a lot of creative people without work are dealing with the twin stresses of job uncertainty and a guilt that as an individual, you are not doing anything productive to help. (Of course I know that self isolation is the best civic thing we can do.)
Is there a relief fund or other support response close to your creative and/or local community you would like to share with us?
I am from Nashville and our city just got hit by a devastating tornado. It displaced a lot of people and businesses and then of course the pandemic shut down everything else. I’d really like people to steer some donations to the Nashville Food Project.
Do you have any words of hope, or artistic work you’ve found comfort in, that you’d like to share?
“This has been a good reminder in patience and acceptance.”
I am a very impatient person. I don’t have a lot of faith in ‘the process’ of the universe although I have an implicit faith in the wisdom of nature and time and history. So this has been a good reminder in patience and acceptance. Reading a few books that deal more directly with nature such as The Overstory by Richard Powers and Annals of the Former World by John McPhee. I read a really remarkable quote the other day in an opinion piece about the sort of traumatic uncertainty of all of this. It was from a former POW, Admiral Stockdale: “Never lose faith in the end of the story.’” That’s not to compare in any way what a lot of us are dealing with to the literal experience of war and captivity, it’s just a really powerful mantra. There will be an end to this particular story. How we choose to be actors in it is one of the few things we can control.