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Diary Of A Pandemic Year

MIT Video Productions

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Published on Jun 04, 2021
Diary Of A Pandemic Year

•Published by Takht-e Jamshied Music, BMI

• Composed by Jamshied Sharifi ’83

• Conducted by Frederick Harris, Jr., Director in Music, MIT Music and Theater Arts

• Virtual performance world premiere by 200 musicians at 2021 MIT Commencement
• Lyrics based on poetry by
Sophia D-G ’22; Patricia Gao ’21; Cynthia Hua, Affiliated Research Assistant, Media Arts and Sciences; Moana Minton Meadow ’02; Maisha M. Prome ’21; and Kareena Villalobos ’22
• Poetry compiled and edited by Erica Funkhouser, MIT Comparative Media Studies/Writing

Director and Editor
•Jean Dunoyer ‘87

Director of MIT Video Productions
•Clayton Hainsworth

Audio and Mastering Engineer
•Jamshied Sharifi

Recording Engineer
•Cuco Daglio

Performed by

MIT Wind Ensemble
Frederick Harris, Jr., Music Director
Kenneth Amis, Assistant Conductor
MIT Festival Jazz Ensemble
Frederick Harris, Jr., Music Director
MIT Symphony Orchestra
Adam K. Boyles, Music Director
MIT Concert Choir
William Cutter, Music Director
MIT Vocal Jazz Ensemble
Laura Grill Jaye, Music Director
Rambax MIT
Lamine Touré, Music Director

With students from
The Chorallaries of MIT
The MIT Logarhythms
MIT Syncopasian
The MIT Asymptones
MIT Resonance
And with MIT community student participants

Of the piece, Sharifi offers the following:

Diary Of A Pandemic Year grew from a seed planted by Fred Harris and Gayle Gallagher; to compose and present a piece of music at MIT’s 2021 Commencement that reflected the unique challenges of the past year. Fred and Gayle had specific ideas about the architecture and tone of the piece: it should begin with a pensive fanfare, it should progress from dark to light, and it should incorporate text in some way. I find such guidance helpful in narrowing the scope of a composition and making it possible to begin writing. But it was not until Erica Funkhouser sent a compilation of student poems on the pandemic that the vision for the piece became clear. The emotional openness, simplicity, and at times aching sadness of their writing was my guiding light, and informed all compositional decisions.

Reading their selected lines, and the longer poems from which they were drawn, I began to get a sense of the impact of the pandemic on young people – its larger significance given their fewer years on the planet, its limiting force on a time that should for them be exploratory and expansive, and its uncomfortable place in a matrix of unfolding calamities brought on primarily by human inattention and hubris.

The current moment feels hopeful; the birds sing of new life. But I sense in the pandemic a warning, and an unsubtle suggestion that we should not “return to normal”, but seek an evolved, equitable, and holistic way of structuring our world. Our young people know this in their bones. We should listen.


To the list of things that make me sad,
I add each day each day

The color goes.
This is the world:
Just gray and gray and gray.

Longing is the same in both directions.
Look at the sky and remember

Everything beautiful lies both forwards and backwards.
Look at the sky and remember
That it’s good to be alive.

Overwriting the written constellations
I create my own new map
I trace my finger along the lines.

I am the little blade of light
Blade of light
from the crack in the door.

I am the orange wedge
Of sun
Of sun
Through your window.

This is the beginning
of the story we tell
again and again
It is the beginning
of the story we tell
Who will listen?

We are fragile
we are precious
we are fragile

We are fragile
we are precious
we are fragile

We are fragile
we are precious
Who will listen?

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