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1 January, 2009


Live music is "dead" to Khoi Vinh:

Perhaps I watched too many mediocre bands within too short a time span, but it only took me a few years to develop a powerful distaste for the trappings of live performances....

Part of this attitude is about growing old, but I think another part of it is that, as digital music has become more pervasive, the ritual of attending the performance of songs in person seems more and more superfluous to my relationship with the music.
Where it once seemed essential to hear music performed live in order to complete the experience of being a fan of an artist or an album, it now does relatively little to enhance my enjoyment or understanding. Live music seems fleeting, subjective and basically irrelevant to whether I like a song, album or artist.

Aye; me too.

As a couple of commenters on the article say, (rock/pop) concerts tend to be more about 'the experience' than the music itself:

... the attraction is the environment – the crowds – the energy; not necessarily the music.

Recorded music, to me, is just stuff to keep you company as you work, drive, travel, etc. Live music is music as it was intended to be consumed: aural, visual, participatory, social, etc.

The point is that I don't want that experience. For me, music is aural, and only aural. I don't want the distraction of any visual accompaniment (whether lights & projections at a concert or video on a DVD at home), there's absolutely no chance of my 'participating', and the social aspects are a massive turn-off.
As I've said, I attend concerts to intently listen to bands; to feel the music rather than academically scrutinise it, but not to 'party', not to share something with the bands (the relationship is strictly one-way) or audiences, and not to immerse myself in a mob . It's about me, moving no more than to breathe and blink, and the performers (or rather, the performance; the people are secondary to the music). Everyone else in the room is an irrelevance.

And when attending a concert typically means 4-6 hours travelling, ~3 hours just waiting (to enter the venue, whilst enduring a support act and whilst the stage is reset) before the only 1½-2 hours that matter, plus the expense of tickets, travel, food & maybe accommodation, I'm becoming far more selective about whether to bother.

Another comment, by Daniel Black, puts it particularly well:

Were talking about two different things:
1. music for its content
2. music for its connectivity
In most cases, in my own experience, live engagements do not provide for the content of music as much as engineered recordings will. Precision provides clarity, and a level of artistic development a live show can only mimic, typically poorly.
However, the immediate, intimate energy of a live show can connect you to the artists, and to the crowd.
And I don't want to 'connect'.

Back to Vinh for the final word:

I still have a great passion for recorded music, though; I listen to as much of it as I can get my hands on, and Im frankly more eager to hear new and different artists than I am to keep listening to the old standbys in my iTunes library. The thing is that I find recordings – as repeatable, knowable documents of musical expression – to be endlessly more fascinating than live performances. I enjoy the ability to examine them in greater detail, to pore over the tracks and to be rewarded by hearing new details even after dozens and dozens of plays. As our relationship to the 'physical' aspects of music become more and more abstract, I think the data – the information – is what holds the most fascination.

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