Monday, November 17, 2008

Live Music versus Recordings

In today’s busy world, where both time and money are precious commodities, why should a person participate in live music concerts?
Recordings are wonderful additions to everyday life. They can be educational tools. CDs can help one relax and provide a background of soothing or exciting music to match or enhance one’s mood. However, the highly edited, embellished or smoothed-over nature of modern recordings can make live performances seem unnecessary.
A live concert allows you to be a part of the process. Chamber music, especially, affords this opportunity. Intimate venues and the relationship between audience and performer offer a dimension that I never knew could exist until I started Catacoustic. This is not something that one learns in music school. I have also discovered the importance of having a dialogue in concerts. Catacoustic’s audience has seen us grow from a small acorn to a healthy oak tree. I think that they feel part of that process, growing with us – in knowledge of music and history, and as active observers.
Live concerts have energy and a sense of spontaneity. You never know what to expect.
As a performer, I much prefer to play in front of an audience than in a recording studio. The music is much more exciting when I have the adrenaline of the live performance.
One uses more senses at a concert: sight (body language, dress, and facial expression), sound, venue, and background contextual information combine with the whole experience to paint a multi-dimensional imaginary picture of the music.
Finally, when I attend a concert, all my attention is on the music. Music is not in the background while I am doing work around the house. Instead, I am savoring each moment as the music brought to life – the interplay of the notes, the physical space, and the dynamic between the performer and the audience, and being part of the process.
What are your thoughts about live music versus recordings?

1 comment:

Frank Cone said...

There is no comparison between live music and recordings. Regardless of other aesthetic factors, a loudspeaker system can never satisfactorily re-create the genuine acoustic experience.

Having said that, I feel there is a role for CDs and other recordings, in that it is not always possible for one to have a concert of precisely what music one wants to hear at any given moment. Like many who will find this website, my main interest is early music. Unfortunately, in my area, there is little to no early music available. Even a cursory reading of the concert listings in the local newspapers will show that the "earliest" music available is generally late Baroque. In order to meet my needs, I have to find CDs or digital downloads of the music which speaks to me.

All that is fodder for the listener and concertgoer. As a musician, there is again no comparison. A live concert in a resonant acoustic and with an audience has an undeniable excitement for both performer and listener. By comparison, the recording process is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the tedium is justified by the end product, I suppose.

I rarely use music as background or as aural wallpaper. I find that music tends to engage me, even in the most trivial cases.