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Alan Cross: For those going stir-crazy from coronavirus, here’s how to alleviate stress with music

A man trying to alleviate stress listening to music.
A man trying to alleviate stress listening to music. Getty Images

Even though there’s no trace of the novel coronavirus in my house (yet), I’m doing the responsible social-distancing thing, venturing out only for quick trips to the store, to the Indian takeout place, and to walk the dogs. And since I do most of my work out of the home office/studio, over the phone, through email, and via Skype, life hasn’t changed all that much for me — until this week.

First, The Wife announced that she is now required to work from home for the rest of the month, resulting in her taking over an entire floor of the house and demanding quiet so she can work while adjusting to the new normal.

Then, the cancellations started rolling in. Speaking engagements scheduled from here to Poland have either been cancelled or postponed. Trips to Manchester, Singapore, and L.A. have been called off. Clients have cancelled meetings, video shoots and voice sessions. My gym is closed. And that Caribbean vacation we’d been looking forward to all winter? Nixed.

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Outside of my radio and podcast work for Corus and the various writing assignments like these for Global News, my workload has been greatly reduced, resulting in a lot of extra time during work hours. You probably know the feeling.

I could treat this time as one big long snow day, but that seems irresponsible when life has become so serious. I should do something productive. But what?

The Wife had a solution: “What about all those nagging to-do items that you’ve put off for weeks and months because you say there’s no time left in your day?”

She’s right, of course. And I’m not happy about it.

For example, I’ve always hated the physical act of putting records and CDs back on the shelf in perfect alphabetical order. And yeah, I’m lazy about it, which is why I have a pile of LPs on the floor and stacks of (i.e. around 200) CDs waiting to be jammed into shelves that are already jammed to capacity.

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I have a similar problem with all the physical books on music that I’ve purchased. But in order for them to be placed properly in my library, I have to adjust the spacing on metres and metres of shelving — a heavy, dusty job. And let’s not even start on the bits and bobs scattered willy-nilly about the office: DVDs, newspaper clippings, magazines, various bits of electronics, that computer that needs troubleshooting but requires skills beyond my means.

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I’ve always told myself that I’d tidy things up eventually. What’s my excuse now?

Well, necessity is the mother of invention. I’ve found a few new distractions.

Live concerts on YouTube

While gigs, tours and festivals are being cancelled every hour, there are plenty of fantastic performances available for free on YouTube. (Try these, for example.) I finally got around to re-watching Prince’s stunning guitar solo (the best ever?) during the 2004 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Wow. Just…wow.

Music docs on Netflix

A night with Netflix for me usually involved searching for something I’d like for 30 minutes, then giving up and going to bed. Now, though, I’m burning through a series of documentaries that run an hour or two. If you haven’t seen FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, here’s your chance. And don’t be afraid to click on a doc that involves an artist you’ve never heard of or think you don’t like. I’ve never been a fan of Nina Simone, but the film What Happened, Miss Simone? is exceptionally good.

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Qello: A whole library of concerts and documentaries

Canadian-owned Qello, an app for Apple TV, Roku and other smart TV services, is like the iTunes of hundreds (thousands?) of concert films and documentaries. Remember when we used to buy DVDs for this sort of thing? Not anymore. It’s a subscription service, but if you’re into this sort of TV, you’ll be hooked.

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Figuring out all the features of your streaming music services

Most of us sign on to Spotify, Apple Music or the streaming music platform of our choice and start poking away, hoping to make the interface do what we want. For example, if you’re worried about your friends noticing that you’re listening to something decidedly uncool on Spotify, just click the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner and select “private session.” That way none of the people who follow you on Spotify will know about your One Direction obsession.

There’s more, too: How to recover deleted playlists, secret keyboard shortcuts, how to sync things with Shazam and even Spotify Karaoke. More tricks here.

Fantasy shopping for vinyl and rare, forgotten releases

Discogs.com is one of the great online resources for music collectors. Not only is it a giant database that seeks to document every release ever, it’s also a marketplace where you can buy and sell items in your collection. And it lists prices in Canadian dollars, too. This is a serious, serious rat hole to go down. Beware.

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The entire world is a different place right now but this, too, shall pass. The trick is to keep the mind and the soul busy. Getting lost in music can help — unless it involves filing records.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with 102.1 the Edge and Q107 and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play.