Katie Tavini: Combating creative challenges through COVID

In her first column for Audio Media International, mastering engineer Katie Tavini looks at the creative challenges posed by the pandemic and how we can overcome them…

Hey, friends! So, I’ve been thinking and putting off what would be my first Audio Media International column article for a while now. Let me introduce myself. I’m Katie Tavini and I’m a very Mancunian mastering engineer based in Brighton, and I used to write a monthly column for PSNEurope.

Now is probably a good time to address the elephant in the room that I’ve been worried about and has been a massive mental barrier for me writing anything – we’re in the middle of a pandemic (as if you didn’t already know) and everything has changed. PSNEurope is sadly no more as a result. However, I’m buzzing that Dan Gumble (former PSNEurope editor and now Audio Media International editor) has asked me to carry on my column here! 

It seems so simple on the outside – carry on a column that you started. Just carry on as normal. 

And so for weeks, I’ve been thinking up topics for articles, sitting down to write, starting the first paragraph and then putting it in the bin. Because what is normal right now? 

For me, normal is a constant battle between the feeling of relief that I’m able to work, and then guilt because of that. In a time where the entire live music industry has been destroyed, studios have been empty for months and are only just re-opening, and the government is telling us to retrain, it’s really hard to know what to feel. It’s hard for me to start writing on a new platform without addressing these really shit things that are happening. 

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Before lockdown, writing became a joy to me, and almost like therapy it kept me sane and was a new way for me to connect with others. Things I wrote often had a very polarised reception (I can empathise with Marmite). But it was that polarised reception that started amazing discussions with people who I would probably not have met otherwise. It made me see new perspectives and challenge my own beliefs. I have missed it a lot. 

I’ve not intentionally started writing the World’s Longest Moan – obviously there are some amazing things that have come out of this pandemic. One of my favourite things is the song ‘Hope (or something like it)’ by Liz Lawrence. I can’t bang on enough about how much I love this song, and it might not exist if it weren’t for lockdown. There are some incredible and innovative live streams happening – BISHI recently did a live VR performance which absolutely knocked my socks off! So this really isn’t intended to be a giant moan about our current situation, it’s more a highlighting of how confusing this time is if you work in the arts. 

There is a sense of joy that you’ve got more time to create, but grief for the things that used to motivate you to create. And this is what’s made me put everything I write so far in the bin. We’ve lost so much human connection and (for myself anyway) that was a huge foundation for my writing work and, to some extent, my mastering work. And I can’t be the only person feeling like this. But, on the flip side, one of the major things that has kept my motivation from falling through the floor completely is seeing the absolute genius work that artists are producing. Seeing such amazing work happening in such a bleak time is so inspirational. This article would have probably gone in the bin too if it wasn’t for the radio I’ve got on in the background to soothe my anxieties, and I know for a fact that some of the songs that have been on in the last half hour were written and recorded in lockdown.

Can you imagine a day without music, books, films, TV, Netflix, the radio, computer games and art on your walls. It’d be pretty fucking bleak! 

My hope for the next few months is that people stop referring to the arts as ‘just a hobby’. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been told countless times to get a real job. It seems as though now we’ve been stuck indoors for six months with very little human connection that now is a good time to stop diminishing the impact that art has on our lives. Let’s celebrate artists of all kinds, and the people who work technical roles behind the scenes. Buy their work, shout them out on socials, and let them know how much you love their work. Because art is important.