Isolation Drills: Tulipomania

Like the majority of you, all of us in the Philadelphia area are staying at home, learning to adapt to our “new normal.” MAGNET is checking in with local musicians to see how and what they’re doing during this unprecedented time. Photos by Chris Sikich.

Tom Murray (bass, drums, vocals): We just finished a new animated music video for a song titled “Gone.” It feels sadly appropriate now—what with the absurd and amazing Wirecard fraud of phantom billions collapsing in this latest episode in an ongoing series of financial deception and greed worldwide—this topic crashes in waves. Maybe eternally, unfortunately. Animation is a slow process; it requires woodshedding in the same way that music does. We created thousands of individual collages of torn paper money, dipping into our collection of faces ripped from newspapers to animate singing bills synced to the music. We still have the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times delivered in paper form. Environmental concerns have caused us to consider discontinuing delivery of physical papers. And now …

Cheryl Gelover (synthesizers, vocals): Early on in the lockdown, we started wondering again if it was wise to continue having the paper delivered because it’s one more thing that needs to sit in quarantine before it can be touched. Pondering this, I went outside to retrieve the paper one morning, and the delivery guy handed it to me personally—very carefully, while wearing a mask and gloves. That made up our minds for now; there’s no way we could consider cancelling the paper delivery—that guy needs to eat. The people who print the papers need to eat. So, we read the papers every day online, and when the physical papers have sat in quarantine long enough, they are ready to be examined and read in more detail—and then torn up to add to our collage stash. It seems inevitable that any film festivals in the near future will need to be online, and we’re OK with that. We want to support festivals that are continuing on by submitting new work. We look forward to performing and screening to live audiences when that is possible. We’ve always needed to isolate in order to create; it’s an important part of the process. We have been feeling grateful for more time to work on music and animation at the same time we’ve been trying not to feel constantly overwhelmed by the state of things.

Tom: Fortunately, we have both been able to work our jobs from home, and we have an income, for now at least. Things that used to be easy are hard now, and some difficult things are no longer part of our days.

Cheryl: Getting a delivery timeslot for groceries feels like a lottery. I thought I had it figured out when I ordered groceries from two different supermarkets, and then I was shocked when both orders arrived in the same week. When the doorbell rang for the second delivery, I asked Tom if he was expecting anything! I don’t miss driving, but I miss riding SEPTA and NJ Transit trains. I miss walking across Rittenhouse Square Park—watching squirrels, people and their dogs along the way—to get whole-grain baguettes at Metropolitan Bakery. I miss the farmers’ market. I miss face-to-face yoga classes. I miss having tea with friends in crowded cafés. Tom and I keep holding out hope that this crisis will shine a light on so many dark places that change for the better will become inevitable. We want to support the things we care about, any way we can and hope for change.

Tom: When the social distance is bridged and the virus is finally controlled—we hope things are improved by the experience and a humbling sense of interconnectedness of our shared situation and mortality.

Cheryl: “We’re all in this together” is not a cliché.

Tom: Unfortunately, a whole lot of people don’t seem to know it.

Cheryl: Hopefully this shared COVID experience will move us all closer together, in ways we never could have imagined while staying apart. Actually, despite being pretty cautious people regarding social distancing and other precautions, we both got out of the house and joined the Black Lives Matter protest in our area.

Tom: It felt important to be present physically. It’s outrageous that we still have to have this conversation, but nothing will change unless we all show our support for one another.  

Cheryl: It made us feel better to march along with articulate, passionate, creative and caring people; most everyone was masked, and respectful of one another in every way. It felt hopeful—it sends a message: We see what’s going on. We care. We want change. Things only change when people care enough to stand up for what they believe in—and there’s been so much of that, all over the world—it’s encouraging!

Tom: As always, guardedly optimistic. It’s a dark time. We want to be hopeful. The way things are going with the lack of concern for justice by people like Bolton and his absurd stance of allowing impeachment hearings and the trial to go on without adding his voice—only to attempt to make money with a book deal. He should have been “in the room where it happened” during the impeachment and trial. So frustrating and depressing—and so important to connect with others who are also tired of this mess we are living in.

Thanks to MAGNET for asking us how we’re doing, and thanks especially to Chris Sikich. It was so nice to welcome you outside of our house, and we’re sorry we couldn’t invite you inside. We’ve been enjoying this series, and it’s nice to be a part of it.

More Tulipomania in MAGNET: premieres of the “Off The Map” and “(This Gilded Age) So What Are You Looking At?” videos, and Cheryl and Tom remembering their friend/collaborator Vaughan Oliver (4AD’s legendary art director).