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Guest blogger Jane
Lockdown in Berlin: A music maker’s perspective

Musician Jane Arnison in her home studio in Berlin
© Jane Arnison

Germany’s capital is in the middle of lockdown version 2.0. Berlin-based musician and producer Jane Arnison gives her reflections on the year where everything stopped, and realises just how hard it is to neatly package it all up.

By Jane Arnison

I learned a lot this year. I changed a lot too. I became respectful of my body’s limitations. We have been forced to come to terms with the limitations of our collective body and, by extension, of our earth.

It is easy to tell a tale of woe and certainly there have been really hard times. However, I look back at the last year and certain words come to mind: Community, compassion, ingenuity and adaptability. Ideas that really typify what it is to be human. All of these wonderful characteristics have been on display within the Berlin arts community throughout one of the most challenging years of our lives.

It is true that the nightlife in Berlin has been decimated. The hum, the throbbing pulse of the city is no more. It is has been silenced. The club and live music sectors have been hit really hard. But in this spirit of human adaptability so many of the performers and creative beings have just gotten on with it. When not performing it is the time for creation, and this is what people are doing. Evvol in concert Jane Arnison (left) with her partner Julie, performing as Evvol | © Jane Arnison A great deal of beautiful music and art will be the result of this terrible time. It is also a time for learning and growth and healing and improvement. I have had time to indulge in personal projects during this time that I otherwise wouldn’t have. I also have had the opportunity to support the development of up and coming producers through my Pathwaves initiative. So many examples of our individual adaptability as well as our community building and support are everywhere around me. Are we healing through this time? Are we resting and recuperating from the rough and tumble of life’s spin-cycle that we were all caught up in? I feel like I am.

I’m an Aussie in Berlin. I came here years ago to pursue music. I started out as a gigging musician, I became a record producer, engineer and am morphing once again into a composer, back to my roots of what I was doing in Australia before I left.

Considering the future of our industry and community, I see this time as a great opportunity. By and large the popular arts are unregulated. Musicians and artists are regularly taken advantage of. Things like Spotify and its underpayment of artists is finally under the spotlight as it becomes the ONLY way that musicians have to survive during this period of pandemic. There was some outrage in the UK when a politician seemed to suggest that musicians should look for alternate work, as if the years of training that most of us put in was nothing and we were not serious professionals. I would ask all the people of the world - what would you do if tomorrow you could no longer put on your favourite Spotify playlist? If radios could no longer play music? Do we really appreciate the value that music gives us all? How do we show that appreciation for those people who create this beautiful music we all consume?

I said community and ingenuity before - because there is an answer to the questions I pose. There is an option, to choose another way. During the pandemic, this has awoken us to this fact - we can chose another way. People are turning away from Spotify, are paying for music on Bandcamp, are realising the importance their financial support can make on the lives of musicians and performers.

The day of the first lockdown I took my dogs out for a walk and was really overcome with the post-apocalyptic feeling of the dark and empty Berlin streets. As we move into winter and into another lockdown, interestingly I have had the opposite experience. Normally at this time the streets are dead and empty, with people cosied up inside each other’s homes, or in pubs and restaurants, socialising until the wee hours, but now we see people taking to the streets. A Glühwein and a socially distanced chat is the new social interaction. It feels beautiful and hopeful. But maybe I’m desperate to see silver linings.