This latest installment of Music in a time of Global Crisis brings the conversation to husband and wife duo, Winterwood. Zac and Holly Winterwood create the perfect blend of ambient soundscapes, expansive drones, and atmospheric folk music. Drawing on a diverse background of classical violin, opera, and sound experimentation, the duo from New Zealand have been building an impressive discography over recent years. It comes as no surprise that Winterwood’s music has found place across the creative sector, including work in soundtracks, theatre, and commissioned compositions. The duo was initially set to release an album on RTR next month, but due to delays in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, this album will be appearing a little later in the year.
In this feature, Zac and Holly discuss the impact of Covid-19 on their music making and raising a label, industry trends and changes, live streaming, and the common ground shared throughout the music community. Zac and Holly have also provided a vibrant list of listening recommendations, including a wide range of styles and artists from around the world.
How have the widespread lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 crisis affected your music making?
If anything, the lockdown encouraged us to create even more music. We live quite a simple rural existence as it is, so the changes which occurred in New Zealand were not to our detriment. Of course, the current climate is a very serious one, and we’re doing our part to dampen the spread of the virus, but we have found that the time of lockdown was actually a great blessing, granting us some much-needed peace. We have jokingly referred to the lockdown period as being the great equalizer between extroverts and introverts.
When we’re not creating music, we can usually feel preoccupied with a sense of a lack of time. This feeling regularly looms large in our psyches. But the lifestyle of lockdown granted a continually open schedule, which included enough time to get some proper rest. The quiet of the neighborhood was inspiring to us to take pleasure in the simple things: contemplation, pondering, breathing fresh air. If one stops and listens carefully enough, they can find the ability to not just know, but feel gratitude for simply being alive. We took full advantage of this special time and were able to complete a number of new recordings. We also took the opportunity to curate the first two releases for our long gestating label East Cape Calling.
What music, new or old, have you been listening to lately, and have your listening habits changed as a result of the current situation?
We have been listening to a mixture of ambient and drone music. Primarily ‘Ontology’ by The Corrupting Sea. One of our favourite ambient albums of 2019. The artist: Blanket Swimming is one to watch out for. His albums ‘Perpetual Seeds for Fleeting Time’, ‘The Sunroom’, and his new collaborations with German artist DR: ‘High Tide’, and ‘The Lightning Gallery’ are all very solid, with a distinct point of view. The new piano music album: ‘Visioning’ by kiwi artist Kent Macpherson is amazing. Buck Curran’s ‘No Love is Sorrow’ and Clara Engel’s‘Hatching Under the Stars’ are beautifully minimal affairs which suit this point in time quite well. We listen to Enyaevery morning while we wake up and start the day, and a regular mix of folk, sound healing, and classics, such as the reappraisal of Art Garfunkel’s solo repertoire, which has been lots of fun. We have been shying away from anything overtly loud or intense. The maintenance of a tranquil existence is paramount right now.
Consequence of Sound reported the worst week of album sales since the 1960s (28th March 2020). Do you think the coronavirus outbreak will have a lasting negative effect on the music industry?
Hmm… hard to say. There would possibly be both positive and negative effects. We could imagine that with so many people out of work and with less income, that the use of Spotify would skyrocket, as well as file sharing services showing a spike. But at the same time this situation has created a captive audience for music and art. It would be nice if dedicated purchasing of downloadable music was on the rise. For a consumer of music, having that immediacy of material would be quite alluring, and due to changing postal situations in different countries, digital may well be the preference. Music, and art will get us through. It is so important, especially now.
With more musicians live streaming from their homes than ever before, do you think this trend will continue once things improve?
Yes, we believe that it will continue. Regardless of venues re-opening there will always be a place for artists to perform streaming concerts. An artist may wish to perform fresh material in a streaming capacity which they’re not yet ready to take to a venue. Or perhaps quieter material which doesn’t translate well into a venue atmosphere. The live streaming framework is interesting, because depending on the viewer’s personal preference, and the capability of the streaming software at the performer’s disposal, it does have the capacity to be more enjoyable than an actual concert. Live streaming can offer a subtle intimacy and privacy, but that experience will depend on how the performer facilitates it and how well the technology functions. We did look at hosting streaming performances during lockdown, but ultimately, we were wearing our recording hats, not our performing ones.
One would hope that if this virus situation can be solved, that en masse we could continue to move forward within a new cultural framework. There were some important lessons to be learnt during being locked down. We all needed to adapt and change our lifestyles. A by-product of this was falling in love with music and art again. And if more human beings continue this newfound love affair with the arts it can only be a positive thing. Perhaps moving forward, streaming could now be seen as a bona fide alternative to performances in traditional venues? The human race is undergoing a huge collective shock to the system, and as a result of this we’re in the beginnings of a newly evolving cultural shift, defined by physical and personal limitations. What we do have in abundance though is technology. Technologically this is the greatest time in history to be on a lockdown, with access to vast amounts of visual, and audio media to keep one’s mind occupied.
What do you think we as music makers can be doing to create positivity right now?
In general, but especially now there needs to be more artist-to-artist connections. Zac is one of the most avid correspondence writers, always discovering new music, and communicating to the artists to let them know about it. Offering praise, support, and being available for discussion. These emails can sometimes fall on deaf ears, but the point is to continue being supportive where you can. Continue to put yourself out there. A dialogue may spark, or it may not, but keep on trying.
In some ways the positivity aspect is already taken care of from the artist to the music listeners. We write, record, produce, release it into the world. Our act of conveying the intent of the work is done at that point. The music then blossoms into the listeners life in an organic way, and they derive comfort and connection from it in their own way. Artists are in the unique position of having so much common ground between us. Regardless of genres we have a shared understanding of what it means to live this kind of lifestyle. As rewarding as making music and art is, we all know that it comes with trials, pitfalls, lifestyle challenges, and of course mental illness. Many of us are a bunch of socially awkward introverts, but if we can still be there for one another more often, then that can make a huge difference in the long term.