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This is a half-hour saxophonic perambulation by Caroline Kraabel through pandemic London, undertaken on the afternoon of 27 April 2020 as permitted daily outdoor exercise. It was recorded to celebrate the 18th birthday of London's art radio station, Resonance 104.4 FM. Kraabel's similar programme, Taking a Life for a Walk, was a fixture on Resonance for its first six years.
Resonance FM is eighteen years old! The same age as my child, with whom I 'took a life for a walk' live on this station, every week for several years from that first week in May 2002.
The lives I took for walks back then are following their own routes now... and 'live' is what this programme is NOT... instead it's my attempt, knowing that the sounds of this would be heard by people living (as am I) during a pandemic, to find a worthwhile and related response to the honour of being asked to celebrate Resonance FM, and to the specific time in which this anniversary occurs.
Like many people in the UK, I have earned nothing since mid- March. Unlike some, because being an improvising performing musician depends on a live audience, and I wouldn't want to be responsible in any way for exposing people to this novel virus, it's unlikely I'll be able to return to live performance for a live audience until there is a treatment and/or a vaccine against Covid 19. What I'm doing now is taking my daily exercise, without a mask, but staying away from people, and improvising as I walk.
As we have all discovered, there are some positive effects of pandemic existence. Just the fact of staying apart is an index of our caring for each other - and there's much less pollution and traffic, though both are starting to increase again in my patch of south London. Almost no planes, what a joy. Will I be willing, or indeed able, to forego flying and driving later on? I certainly feel even more inclined to do so.
This crisis has also hardened the prejudice against old people that is so prevalent in our society. Initially they were being sacrificed to an untried right-wing plan summed up as 'Herd immunity; protect the economy; if some pensioners die, too bad', and now both staff and residents in care homes appear to have been abandoned to their fate. This lack of consideration is a concomitant of the view that has been dominant for 40 years: that the only measure of a person's worth is financial, and thus that people who are what they call 'economically inactive' (though in fact there is no such state) are worthless.
I don't even want to go down the path of justifying WHY old people (or any other category of humans) are of the same value as others , because that in itself smacks of exclusion or special pleading. The point is that in our human society the only and ultimate valid measure of worth is our shared humanity, which means that when we downgrade 'others' among our fellow humans – because they are old, or poor, female, foreign, disabled, of a specific ethnicity or religion – we downgrade OURSELVES.
May this virus vaccinate us all against being greedy and selfish, and against the essentially flawed and damaging extremist neo-liberal capitalism that, through its disregard for the planet and for human equality, has brought the pandemic about.
released April 29, 2020
C. Kraabel: alto sax, words
London: airplane, cars, pigeons, walkers, dogs, neighbours, ventilation systems, blackbird, children, workers.