Twenty Twenty

Jesse Stiles, Pauline Kim Harris (2020)

Twenty Twenty is the debut album by Congregation of Drones, the electro-acoustic duo comprised of renowned violinist Pauline Kim Harris and boundary-pushing electronic artist Jesse Stiles. The album was recorded live on two dates: February 27, and October 3, 2020. The first two pieces were performed in person, at Carnegie Mellon University, twelve days before the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and nationwide lockdowns began. In these recordings, an ominous presence seems to loom on the horizon, foreshadowing the havoc that would soon be unleashed – and that would derail the production of the album for many months.

In the early months of the pandemic, Pauline and Jesse returned to their respective homes in NYC and Pittsburgh as the music world collapsed around them. After an involuntary hiatus, Pauline and Jesse resumed their recordings using experimental tools for live performance over the web. The final two pieces on the record were recorded the day after then-president Donald Trump entered the hospital to receive an experimental coronavirus treatment. These pieces traverse emotional landscapes expansively – dashing from mournful chords, to wild outbursts, to strident melodic figures forming complex structures of sound.

The album takes its name from the year in which it was recorded, and from the idiom “hindsight is twenty-twenty.” The titles of each piece are taken from the front page of the New York Times on the day on which the piece was recorded.

Project description provided by the artists’ bandcamp site. Learn more about the album here.

This project was made possible in part by the Frank-Ratchye Further Fund Grant# 2021-050.