An Innovative Vancouver Solution to Listening to Music During a Lockdown

Mark Haney & His Isolation Commissions

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Mark Haney & Marina Hasselberg — Photograph — Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

Isolation Commissions

If there is a an expression that defines this century and especially this 2020 lockdown is over choice. There are hundreds of cable programs and with Netflix there are hundreds of films. In YouTube if you think about some obscure song or composition it will be found.

My daily delivered NY Times is about the Covid-19 from the first page to almost the last. Our dear MSNBC newscaster (she calls it a show) Rachel Maddow is 100% about the Covid-19 with a few side diatribes to the current occupant of the White House. My forays into the Argentine newspapers including the Buenos Aires Times in English which does not have a pay-wall is all about the impending default of the country’s enormous debt in the billions of dollars.

Where does one find solace? I have found a few methods. In one of them I realized that novels or books I had read in my distant past can be re-read because I am not the man today who was the man who read them then. My failing memory makes some of them like Susan Sontag’s On Photography and Roland Barth’s Camera Lucida refreshingly new.

And I cannot evade the subject that I am tackling for a second time Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela in Spanish.

Another solace is listening to music. What possible music will entertain me or inspire me now? Few will understand why I don’t ever want to listen to Bach’s Double Violin Concerto or that (I will offend many) I have had enough of his cantatas, so many I have witnessed live. I am not interested in further exploring Beethoven’s symphonies or most composers of the 19th century.

I find interest in the refreshing idea of listening to baroque music of the 17th century but alas! Early Music Vancouver’sconcerts have been cancelled for the season as have the new music and fairly performed works courtesy of our Turning Point Ensemble.

A particularly astounding tradition in Vancouver is that musicians of the baroque, classical or new music variety, when of the male gender, put on their pants one leg at a time. By this I mean that these musicians, including those of the female gender, are warm and approachable. Through magazine assignments I have photographed many of them and become friends with some of them.

So it is the personal side of music that makes listening to the music I now like an attractive one.

A case in point is the Isolation Commission series put together by Little Chamber Music and the Composer in Residence at the Mountain View Cemetery (since 2015), bassist Mark Haney who in my estimation is the most handsome bassist around. There are 28 of them. For 200 bucks you can commission an artist of your choice to play something from their living room.

Mark Haney — Photograph — Angela Fama

There is an intimacy here that cannot be found in the best YouTube performance videos (even though this series can be also found on YouTube). And the choice of music, at the very least is refreshingly eclectic. One of my faves is this one by my friend and violinist Cameron Wilson.

Cameron Wilson & the Wahs play Cream

There is another music that also pleases me. It is the music of my upbringing in Buenos Aires and my years in Mexico City. One of the Buenos Aires memories has to be Piazzolla and particularly this one which I first heard in 1966 when I bought the record.

Another is associated with a great Mexican film noir Salón México and its connection to Aaron Copland’s El Salón Mexico. The links to the film and the composition (directed by Copland in the presence of a young and handsome Leonard Bernstein) are in this blog.

As for any jealousy about Bernstein’s looks we have the Vancouver Opera’s Leslie Dala who besides competing with Haney for a musical beauty pageant happens to be a fine pianist.

Of movies we don’t bother with Netflix. We are addicted to TCM’s Noir Alley with Eddie Muller at 9pm on Saturdays. On other days an hour or two of news is about all the TV we can stomach.

It is most pleasant to listen to music coming from the living rooms of our Vancouver musicians. To me this reflects a uniqueness that contradicts all those who call our city boring.

Link to: Mark Haney & His Isolation Commissions

Into Bunny Watson. I am a Vancouver-based magazine photographer/writer. I have a popular daily blog which can be found at: