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Iván Fischer: These Twenties

Iván Fischer: These Twenties

2021 will be a year of convalescence for all of us. Thanks to the vaccine, the daily death toll will drop, and the restrictions will gradually be lifted. But what about those of us who have gotten used to living our lives under Covid? Will we give up working remotely and return to our expensive offices? Will music aficionados once again overflow our concert halls, or have we all gotten a little too used to streaming performances? Will we get up early in the morning again, to face rush hour and crowded buses? What about shaking hands? And exchanging kisses? Will a child with a hint of a cold be told to wear a mask while at school? Will audience members dare cough in the same way they used to?

Computers were a blessing this year, allowing us to hold birthday parties, board of directors meetings and class reunions over Zoom. I personally toyed with the idea of rehearsals over Zoom: after all, why should I make the journey to the orchestra? All they need is a big screen on the conductor’s podium, and they can even enlarge the image, so everyone can see better. I might as well provide my instructions from home! Given that some are even conducting psychoanalysis sessions over Zoom, this really does not seem so far-fetched.

Everyone is constantly buried in their gadgets: people no longer make phone calls, and the world is chatting, not speaking. “Stop by” or “give me a call,” we used to say; today, it’s “message me.” Speaking is difficult and cumbersome, but writing is so comfortably safe. Even arguing is easier by text: at least there is no actual yelling involved.

Admit it: we have come to love Covid. It is comfortable, you can stay in and it is still far better when it’s your kid bothering you as you work than your boss. It’s enough to listen to the orchestra through your speakers, and actors are easier to understand this way, too. You can also rewind and listen to something again. Life is less expensive, the empty streets look pretty at night and you can let the dog off the leash.

But be careful: there is a post-Covid generation emerging. These young people will do everything differently, and will look down on us, their old-fashioned elders pecking away at their phones or scrolling through their Facebook feeds. It will be cool to leave your phone at home, and social media will be uncool: today’s young person has conversations, makes friends, hugs other people and leaves the house. The children will flee from the cookies on their computers: they will not be monitored and will not put up with advertisements sent by some algorithm. They will take trips together, and will draw on paper using pencil and pen; they will learn to play instruments. They will float on joyful clouds of love: a new generation of flower power bringing back the sixties. There will be freedom: a new kind of freedom, and a happy age of new ascetics, for whom Bitcoin is ancient history and uninteresting. They will love only one another: people; they will walk barefoot and will have so much time on their hands, forgoing their gadgets.

The new audience at concerts will be young people who enjoy sitting close to one another, unbothered by shoulders touching, and enjoying the sense of community. Their grandmothers will stay home, afraid of the virus as though it were still 2020. But even a concert is different today from what it used to be like. Before Covid, there were supposedly these strange rules: you could not clap between movements, and everyone would cough as though they were suffering from bilateral tuberculosis. Before the age of the pandemic, the orchestra would wear white tie, and the conductor would shake hands only with one of the violinists - who knows why?! Today, there are far more surprises, the conductor will talk to the audience and it is permitted to laugh or to show up wearing sneakers.

Dear friends: Covid is almost over, and these twenties will soon begin. Get ready.

Iván Fischer

This article was originally published in Hungarian in the weekly magazine HVG (No. 51–52) on December 17, 2020 and on hvg360 online on December 21, 2020.