This image is from our Outpost Performance in May 2015. From Left: Johanna Hongell-Darsee, Phrank Bramlitt, Tej Bhavsar, Larry Otis, Liz Madden, Alicia Ultan, Scott Darsee
Lately I have been pondering over what an audience gets out of a live concert as opposed to recorded music.
We live in a time where music is everywhere, in every shop, elevator, restaurant ... We listen to music streamed to our phones and so music is never more than a swipe and an earbud away. So, why go to a live concert?
I think there are a few things the live situation gives:
When we sit down to listen we actually have to turn OFF our phones. No checking emails or texts. We sit back and for the duration of the concert all we do is listen … We can let our mind wander and just receive …
In a live concert the musicians on the stage and the audience create a common space, a feeling, an experience.
We are part of a group, an audience who all experience something together. Whether we dance and jump or just sit there quietly and clap at the end. We also might chat with friends and acquaintances in the break.
We get to see the musicians up close and personal, see them work and sweat, maybe even fumble at times. We can laugh and cry together.
Maybe we go to a concert with a friend. Afterwards we can discuss what we liked and hated about the music … One of my nicest memories of my dad is when he took me to a piano concert when I was maybe 9 years old. It was just him and me. We shared an experience and it made me feel like a real grown up music appreciator … And for a long time afterwards we could share our inside jokes (the pianist was very, very expressive) and talk about the concert.
In a live concert we get to hear songs in a context. Whether it is a singer songwriter who tells us about the heartbreak that led to the writing of a song, or – as in our case – where we sing medieval ballads and tell the story and background of the song.
As more and more music is streamed, often in playlists with a mix of different artists and styles, it can be really nice at times to experience the work of an artist as a whole, from beginning to end.
The artist has put together a program, a set list. We don’t get to choose exactly what we are going to hear. Even if the artist takes suggestions, it might not be our suggestion that gets played. We might hear something we had never heard before or something played in a way we did not experience before.
Or, we might go and hear a music style from another culture or time.
I never forget when I saw my first performance of Indian dance and music. It changed the course of my life. I decided then and there that I wanted to travel to India and learn this art form.
Last but not least – as we sit there, with the phone off and the outside world forgotten for a while, our mind wanders and we might get the idea of a lifetime, or just be able to connect to feelings we had all but forgotten.
Or, we might see something that makes the impossible seem possible.
One of the most moving performances I ever saw was of a very old man dancing. He was more or less carried up on stage, but when his helper let go of his arms he began to move. Small movements of hands and eyes – and suddenly he was gone and in his place I saw gods and goddesses, men, women, children, animals ... Dramas and stories played out. The impossible really was possible.