Blood & Breath: The Virus Moves Through Humanity
Updated: Mar 8
Soon after the March 13, 2020 lockdown this release is timed to commemorate, I decided to take a long-neglected book off one of my shelves. The American Ephemeris of the 21st Century had been gathering dust for over five years, last consulted when a friend asked me to astrologically check something related to her children. Once upon a time I’d used the ephemeris on a regular basis, doing people’s charts, following the movements of the heavens and interpreting what they might mean in the unfolding of our lives. But at that point I’d largely lost interest in what had once been a compelling hobby.
Still, an impulse was there on that particular day—not an especially urgent one, something closer to idle curiosity—and I turned to the ephemeris pages covering December 2019 through January 2020. As my eyes scanned the small type, moving through the planetary signs and their positions over the period when the first cases of Covid-19 were being reported, an icy sensation knifed through my gut. Cosmically speaking, the pandemic appeared to have arrived right on schedule.
Over that key period—when the world was just beginning to learn about a strange cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China—the planet Saturn, symbolic of human structures at the societal and individual levels, was drawing into a powerful conjunction with Pluto, the astrological signifier of deep transformation. Though I’d never believed in the predictive aspects of astrology, I had come to conclude through my own work with it that general human traits and tendencies could be understood from an interesting and often resonant perspective through its various interpretive systems. But here was an instance of the former, not the latter—a finger pointing at the skies, predictively saying: “Everything is about to change, big-time”—and it gave me pause,
After the initial shock had subsided I didn’t give the discovery much thought for a while, consumed with the emergency online delivery of my university courses and other pressing things. But soon after the semester ended, when I was contacted by a small group from my 2019-20 electroacoustics composition class about the idea of meeting virtually over the summer to keep our creative chops in shape, the whole business about the Saturn-Pluto conjunction came rushing back to me.
I gladly accepted the invitation, always excited and game for an interesting collaborative venture, and quickly realized there would be an important and unique dimension to the project we should all consider: If everything is in the process of profoundly changing, went my thought, then the very ways in which artists create must be included in that transformation. If we were to be cognizant of this emerging reality, aware that whatever we did would inevitably be affected by the overarching context of the unprecedented times we were living in, then something moving and potent could quite possibly come from what we did. I brought these ideas up in our earliest meetings, and everyone expressed openness to being attentive not only to the formal and technical aspects of the pieces we were generating, but also to the “big-picture” factors surrounding and permeating them at many different levels.
Blood & Breath: The Virus Moves was one of several pieces we developed with the pandemic’s widespread transformational effect on humanity as a central theme. Our goal in this particular timeline was to take the listener on an immersive journey depicting the virus’s arrival in our midst—that initial, highly-disorienting phase during which the little pockets of order humanity had managed to create for itself all over the globe were being disrupted in ways both traumatic and deeply stirring.
I hope you enjoy this first offering of ours, one of many to come!
Michael Pinsonneault, Montreal, March 13, 2021