Is it live, or is it….

The compact disc
Image via Wikipedia

Remember the commercial?  I do.   In the old days, before digital re-mastering and all the wonderful things you can do to “clean up” sound we were delighted with the latest tape.  Wonder if we would have felt that way if we knew what clarity was waiting around the corner and available on so many devices….

I have saved a bunch of CD’s to mp3 files and have started to develop mixes that I personally find pleasing.  There are so many different ways to enjoy music–live, recorded, internet, radio, music videos etc. I find myself searching YouTube or I-Tunes for a song I hear a snippet of.  I find interesting versions of old favorites and use music to help teach adults.  All without reading music or playing an instrument!  Most folks would say that digital collection of sound makes it all possible–I think that this qualifies as a miracle.  I know that this is not the greatest innovation ever made, but I do marvel at the quality of the sound that small electronic devices create.

While these advances make the enjoyment of music richer and more full for many listeners, I wonder how some of the musicians and composers would feel if they knew what we do to their music, to their art!  Imagine what Mozart or Charlie Parker or even John Lennon would think about how we hear them today. The making of music, the art of music and the love of music does find new ears every day and the technology that brings it can ensure that the music lives on long after the artists are gone.

Like Jambo, who wrote the article cited below, I have very eclectic tastes in music and like Jambo, I also like music that is made by musicians.   That being said, I am fascinated by the experimenting that some folks are doing with sounds–NPR features these artists periodically.  They seem like the impressionists or the early rockers who rankled the establishment and were on the cutting edge.  Only time will tell if this is truly an art form or if it is something else.  Because, art endures!

One issue I have with the electronic capture of music is that so much “clean up” happens that some of the uniqueness of each live performance gets lost.  Yearning for that reality: hearing music as it is being created is an exhilarating experience.  Perhaps that is why people still spend real money on concerts.

The other issue I have resulting from the seeming perfection on recorded music is that it could discourage someone from making music.  How could I ever sound as good as my favorite singer? (Except maybe while in the shower?!)  I hope no one ever feels that way.  Since we sat around fires in caves we have been making music and the exhilaration of being present as the music is created is beyond compare.  Don’t stop singing in the shower, the car or around the fire.  Pick up that instrument in the closet collecting some dust and feel the reality.  It is the only way for the music to endure!


4 thoughts on “Is it live, or is it….”

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Madeline! It’s certainly worth pausing to reflect on the transformation in the way we experience music and how it’s changed our perception of the artists behind it…

    As you say, there’s something exhilarating about experiencing the live creation of music which is sadly lost in many of the ultra-hygienic recordings produced today. There’s a big difference between keeping the quality of recording high (with good equipment, professional recording environment etc) and scientifically assembling the perfect performance and mix to the point where it bears little relation to anything done live… It’s great that the modern age puts hifi recording within everyone’s reach – let’s hope it isn’t always accompanied with that spotless perfectionist mindset so alien to live music.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Christopher! If the listening folks go for “recorded live” type of fare when they are buying, then there will continue to be a market for the less scrubbed products. Also it occurs to me that when plastic flowers came on the market, lots and lots of people used them everywhere. My grandma used to stick them into the dirt through the snow so she could see flowers in her garden out the back window while she ate breakfast! Many people have replaced artificial plants with real ones indoors because there are benefits to having that living thing in your environment.

      We continue to hunger for that awesome human reality that the living creation of music–some might refer to it as a conversation between artist and listener–that I believe we are seeking. We want it, we need it–there are real benefits to having that living experience!

      Have a wonderful day!

  2. There is one thing that can not be produced and that is chemistry, the chemical reaction in the combination of life performing and live audience. May be synthesized in the future with 3D and 7.1 and advance virtual reality or holographic, technically we can get close, but the communion between musician and audience is unique in any genre, from classic to DJ and I personally think that this uniqueness can not be reproduced.

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