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COVID Pedagogies: Tools, Content & Strategies

Daniel Payne


Title: Prelude to a Pandemic: Ruminative Thinking on Bach's Cello Suite #1 ; Backyard Allemande: An Aleatoric Duet (Bach Cello Suite #1)

Artist: Daniel Payne

Format: .mp4 audio file

Year: 2021



I called my soundscape Prelude to a Pandemic but qualified it intentionally. Ruminative thinking is described as "the  tendency to repetitively and passively analyze problems, concerns, or feelings of distress without taking action to make positive changes"; this syndrome seemed so appropriate to my relationship with Bach during the COVD-19 experience. I would play through various suites obsessively during the long lockdown evenings, meandering through movements; focussing intensely on some sections, glossing over others. Without the clear end-goal of a performance, however, rehearsing became repetitively, almost compulsively aimless.  

My homage to the iconic Prelude to Cello Suite #1 was executed using a pre-existing recording,  then splicing it using Camtasia. As the software doesn't allow viewing musical lines, I was working from the graphic representation of the music on the recording clip. It is meant to be thoroughly raw—a tribute to analogue spliced tapes of the 1970s— and adopts a sort of sculptural approach to sound using an additive principle. I wanted to highlight the ebb and flow of the piece, then treat these dynamic features in a sonically visualized manner.  

In contrast, I took the second movement of Suite #1, the Allemande, and offered an approach focussing on melodic lyricism. By using an unaltered recording of the movement, then layering bird songs recorded from my back courtyard—complete with background sounds of traffic and construction in my neighbourhood—I hoped to show how our domestic environment during the lockdown became such a prevalent and constant duet partner. After all, the lockdown has helped us focus on our natural environment in a slower, more conscious way. Furthermore, an Allemande is intended to be dance music, so I attempted to demonstrate how our local spaces have become constant dance partners, without a clear understanding of who is taking the lead. To emphasize this, the aleatoric aspects of bird calls mapped onto the melodic line form a natural critique of the rigid harmonic structure of Bach’s Baroque compositional practice.  

Overall, I found inspiration from Gilles Deleuze who sees the task of art as tearing apart the “subject” to create a “discordant harmony.” 


“How to Stop Ruminative Thinking,” The Recovery Village, ed. Dr. Ann Pickering, updated 1 Jan. 2021,  

Smith, Daniel and John Protevi. "Gilles Deleuze,”  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta,  


Downloadable files; including a revised version of the Prelude: