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The global prisoners' chorus / The Guardian

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As the Covid-19 virus has taken hold, human beings have turned to singing and music. We are expressing an eternal need for harmony. Neighbours play instruments from balconies as Italy stays under coronavirus lockdown – video

Music, said Saint Thomas Aquinas, can be defined as "the exaltation of the mind derived from things eternal bursting forth in sound". Faced with the stresses and difficulties of the coronavirus outbreak, it should come as no surprise that so many people have found a response to the pandemic in music. Our bodies may be doing the right and responsible thing by remaining at home, but our minds are not so easily locked down. Things eternal still need to burst forth somehow, and in the face of the Covid-19 virus, music has become one of humankind's most defiant public assertions that life must continue in harmony.

Nowhere has this musical expression of the will to survive been more inspiring than in Italy. A week ago, a few Italians began to open their windows in the evening and venture out on their balconies to sing. 

When people look back on the pandemic of 2020, they will remember many things. One of them ought to be the speed with which human beings, their freedom to associate constrained, turned towards music in what may almost be described as a global prisoners' chorus. In music, supply has been quick to respond to demand. The Berlin-based concert pianist Igor Levit plays a sonata live on Twitter each evening from his living room.  Simon Rattle, who conducted a livestreamed concert from an empty hall in Berlin last weekend, put it well when he said beforehand: "We hope that simply playing sends a signal." 

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