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What 2020 Sounds Like, in 45-Second Bits

July 14, 2020

Some of the new music that’s being released right now — on CDs, archived and streamed online — isn’t, well, new. In a way, this is good: the lag between when something’s recorded and when it’s released means that there’s plenty of new music yet to come, this year at least. But the delay also robs music of its power to react to the moment. And there’s a lot going on right now!

With an ongoing commissioning project, Los Angeles-based piano duo HOCKET is making a musical document of the times. Launched last month, #What2020SoundsLike has the duo, Sarah Gibson and Thomas Kotcheff, recording 50 new works from 50 commissioned composers. The works are miniatures, between 15 and 45 seconds, so that they can be rehearsed and recorded quickly. The result, Gibson explains: “a sense of ‘real-time’ musical reaction to the moment.”

The project’s hashtag title has given HOCKET and the composers a broad prompt to work off of. The first commissioned piece, Alexander Elliot Miller’s “BGA (Breonna, George and Ahmaud),” draws directly from recent news. Another work, Jordan Nelson’s “Bear,” goes general and encourages listeners to keep the multiple definitions of its title word in mind. Gibson says these different responses are exactly what #What2020SoundsLike is about.

“We wanted this project to be a platform for our friends, colleagues, and collaborators to come together and express themselves,” she says, “in a time when many of us are looking for a sense of community and artistic expression.”

#What2020SoundsLike has been an opportunity to innovate musically too. Veronika Krausas’s “Tinkly Windbag” pairs toy piano and accordion, two keyboard instruments in HOCKET’s repertoire but a combo they had never performed before. An upcoming piece by Jacob Cooper has Kotcheff dropping super balls on the piano strings — a new extended technique for a duo that’s seen it all.

And HOCKET has made a point of keeping things musically diverse. Composers outside of the new-music world — jazz composers Jonathan Richards, Miro Sprague, Daniel Rotem, and Hitomi Oba, pop and jazz artist India Carney — are adding their voices to #What2020SoundsLike.

You can stay up to date with HOCKET and #What2020SoundsLike on the duo’s website and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube pages. New videos will be posted through September, with plans for an album release at the end of the year.

Peter Feher is an editor at SFCV. He can be reached at [email protected].