• Storm Benjamin

Imagining "COVID-19"

The first timeline piece was Mass America.

The idea behind it is simple: take a timeline and reduce it to fit into a shorter time scale. The data within that timeline needs merely to be quantified and qualified. In Mass America, this meant "1 measure = 1 month."

The piece written using the data of COVID-19 is similar to Mass America—the piece uses a timeline, except it uses the timescale of "1 measure = 1 day." The first section deals with 3 data points: number of daily infections, number of deaths, and number of countries reporting new infections. Each section is represented by a different instrument class (respectively)—skins (plastic or skin headed drums), metals, and woods.

The pitch, sustain, and rhythm of each instrument is represented by "compositional rules." The rules help to interpret the data in a way that creates more even proportions between the data points, therefore making the piece more "listenable."

The idea first came to me in early March 2020, when the increasing infections were becoming more visible in the news. Once I was caught up on the data and the rules were in place, I began updating daily—curious about how the piece would evolve.

I began by reviewing the spreadsheets from, and switched to collect data strait from the WHO situation reports shortly after. The WHO's data have since been abandoned by Our World in Data in favor of more reliable data from CDC, ECDC, and others.

As May approached, my daily updates became weekly updates, and eventually stopped all together. I was mystified by the steadiness of the world's numbers. The composition was becoming stagnant, as was my motivation. States began to reopen in the month of June, and the new American surge began.

It was clear to see that this was a big turning point in the pandemic. All eyes were on America, and it was clear that our numbers were about to divert greatly from other nations.

So, I viewed a graph of the world's COVID-19 data so far, and choose April 9th as the day when the data began to stagnate. I began writing a new section of COVID-19. This new section compares the new daily cases between the USA and the EU. Each region is represented by an instrument class—woods for USA and metals for the EU. After specific compositional rules were applied to the data, the result is a dense polyrhythmic discourse representing the proportions of new daily infections for each region. As you can imagine, things started really picking up for the USA at the end of June, while the EU's pace remains steady.

More soon.


Recent Posts

See All

Composition Notes, COVID-19

First Section: The first section of the piece represents the worldwide growth in new countries/areas/territories, new infections, and new deaths due to SARS-CoV-2. The data is presented chronologicall


©2020 by Storm Benjamin.