The pandemic has been hard on the performing arts and on the musicians who depend on live performance for a living. It's also made life difficult for composers. During the pandemic, though, artists are coming together to find a way to survive together. Violinist Jennifer Koh is a brilliant example of this. In April of 2020, she started an online commissioning project, "Alone Together," which paired established composers with freelance composers who are in a much more precarious position, to commission works for solo violin. On Friday, GBH will be presenting a virtual recital with Jennifer Koh playing a selection of works from "Alone Together." The transcript below was edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: It's not hard to understand what would inspire you to start this project because, you know, your colleagues were in crisis. But this particular idea — pairing established composers with freelancers, and getting the backing for it — how did this particular vision come together?

Jennifer Koh: I have to be honest: initially, it was complete and utter, I think, panic for almost all of us in the performing arts. I was in touch with a lot of my closer friends who are also musicians, and I think we were also really concerned about the future of the field. I remember the day I got back from my last concert, every single engagement was canceling every half hour. And so, of course, my first reaction was to panic, initially, for myself. And then I realized: if I'm panicking, this is actually much worse for younger musicians. They're much more in need. They might have had their first premiere ever by a string quartet, or the first premiere ever with an orchestra, and while my work was fortunately postponed, for a lot of them, their work was canceled. So I went to my colleagues that I knew had salaried positions or else institutional support — and usually I do a lot of research on composers and it kind of takes years — and in this situation, I knew there was a great need in the community, so I went to my colleagues and asked them for recommendations.

Rath: We should tell people who are not familiar: long before the pandemic, you were passionate about new music and getting new music commissioned, right?

Koh: Yes, well, I believe in community. I think part of my mission, as well, I really do believe in, kind of, the evolution of music and the fact that we need to be more inclusive. We need to bring forward the stories and voices of people that have not been heard in classical music before.

Rath: Now "Alone Together" as a title obviously works on a number of levels. The obvious one, though, is that you were collaborating, but in physical isolation. Tell us how how the process started.

Koh: I mean, it's funny because a lot of — most of the younger, actually, I think all of the younger composers, I had never met in person. I still haven't met most of them in person, actually, but I feel really fortunate. I didn't think about it at the time, but at a time when everything was being a contraction for everybody because it was dangerous to interact with other people at that time, it was dangerous to be in crowds. And so I think, for all of us, our lives contracted, and now looking back, I realized I was really lucky because my life and kind of collaborative life was expanding during that time, because I had the opportunity to meet all of these really wonderful young composers.

Rath: Well, and in total, there were 19 composers?

Koh: Twenty.

Rath: Right. That would make sense, they’re pairs, right?

Koh: Yeah. So it was 40, kind of, premieres over 10 weeks total. It's really interesting — now, again, this was something I didn't realize at the time, but now when I kind of return to that music, it's like it brings me back to that period of time, which was really painful, I think, for everybody. I think especially having lived in New York, and I think at that point in time, it was the hardest-hit city. And so, oh, God, I'm going into PTSD for that. Okay, no, no, okay. But what I realize now is that the project actually ended up becoming a kind of musical archive of that time and an emotional archive of that time.

Rath: Wow, so, Jennifer, returning to it now, as you are with this recital and revisiting the music — and that in some places came out of such a place of pain —what is it like? Is it healing to come back to it now? What's the experience like?

Koh: You know, it's interesting when I speak to my friends who were in New York City at the time, I think that we all do have kind of this PTSD from that period of time. And it's interesting also speaking to friends who were outside of New York City at that time, and they all reflect upon the fact that everybody that they know that was in New York City all have PTSD. To be honest, it was such a horrific period of time and something that I never want to live through again. And I think what's important is the music doesn't let me forget. So even when I see or I read about these surges in other countries, it just brings me back to the place that I think New York City was in last year. And the music is perhaps, you're right, perhaps it is some kind of balm. Perhaps it's a way to return to that period of time and be able to kind of emotionally process it because, you know, also these pieces — they were all written within that time frame, and within a few weeks of the beginning of the pandemic really hitting New York City. So a lot of the first pieces that came out in the first couple of weeks, there are just sirens running through almost every piece.

Rath: You play that on the violin. You can hear the sounds of sirens. Yeah.

Koh: Yeah. And because that was the beginning, right? And then, I mean, there are so many other kind of emotional, I guess, reactions. Like, I remember I met Angelica Negron for the first time — on Zoom — learning her piece, and she was telling me how, it was so horrific, she was just watching Instagram videos of these two dogs who play with balloons. And so her piece is called "Cooper and Emma," and it's based on these two dogs who play with balloons on Instagram. So I think we can kind of see how everybody processed that period. And it's helpful, because I think it was — I think, now, looking back, we realize that there are so many systemic inequities, and I think because most of the composers who were commissioned were either people of color, non-binary or non-gender conforming and women, it was interesting meeting them because I could literally see the systemic inequities when we were speaking and learning about what they were going through at that time.

Rath: And it's actually something you can see wonderfully when you look at the list of names, I'm just going off the names, not being able to see the faces, you know, just being familiar with various national backgrounds — it's an incredibly diverse group.

Koh: Yes, and I see them as the promise and the vision for the future. I really do see see them as the future of classical music.

Rath: Jennifer, it's been such a pleasure speaking with you. Love the music, and love what you're doing, and just thank you.

Koh: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Rath: That's Jennifer Koh. Her virtual recital Pieces From Alone Together premieres Friday at 4 p.m. and will be available for streaming for a limited time after that. This is GBH’s All Things Considered.