Isolation Drills: Matt Weed (Rosetta, Ghost Lode)

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.

Weed: We’re past the one-year mark now, and for me the singular experience of the last year has been aesthetic starvation. On a concrete level, it’s the way that all the perks of living in a large city evaporated last spring, and then all the petty frustrations began to multiply. But more than that, it’s just a sense of being constantly under siege by ugliness.

Beauty has been really hard to find. There’s maybe a popular idea that artists do their best work in adversity, so I’m sure someone would tell me to go create my own beauty. But the pandemic doesn’t feel like a personal struggle that I have agency in. It’s a collective struggle, not just against a disease but against our failings as a society, and it’s easy to get discouraged. In that discouragement, it’s hard to pick up an instrument and feel that you have something to say with it.

I’ve noticed I’ve started to look more to nature for inspiration and encouragement. When the lockdowns started, I noticed new and interesting animals appearing in my neighborhood. A common nighthawk nested in my alleyway last summer, and I started to look forward to hearing it divebombing the street corner in the evenings.

I started kayaking on the Schuylkill and saw herons in the storm-sewer outlets and bald eagles and ospreys fishing in the river near Grays Ferry. I saw foxes and groundhogs making their homes in stalled construction sites. It’s a good reminder that there’s this whole other world that’s not failing, that’s not us, that doesn’t need us.

I’ve begun making field recordings of beautiful places, hoping to build music on those soundscapes. In effect, to use found beauty as a foundation and catalyst for created beauty.