As we sift computer-ready media forms from computer-resistant ones, we notice that it’s the key factor of physical embodiment in a real environment (with all the spontaneity and vulnerability that implies) which distinguishes the latter, and I suspect it’s these unique qualities which will come, more and more, to define non-computer media experiences.
The future of non-computer media is to exaggerate all the things you can’t put on a computer. This is what will guarantee their survival. (Ironically, optimizing your medium’s difference from the computer experience is also an inverse form of ‘computerization.’)
In a previous column, ‘I Dance, Therefore I Am,’ I argued that computers need to learn that we have bodies, and cater to them. I do believe this, but I also think there’s a point on this path beyond which computers can never go. And it’s precisely that point where things get interesting.
Live performances of any kind will always be special, whether it is music, theater or performance art. What makes performances unique? Being in a room with other people. That means 1. the social and communal context of watching/listening in a group and 2. the physical space that the performance is located in. I have wonderful recordings of cello music that I listen to, but if somebody said to me that I could hear Janos Starker pay un-amplified solo-cello in a candle-lit wine cellar with 20 other people for $500 or even $1,000 each, I would get out the money right away.
I can imagine that improvised music will make a come-back (was it ever gone? no, but I can imagine it becoming more popular than ever), because it is of the moment and the context (people and space).
From an email I received:
I have been at your live performances three times now and each time I heard moments in the music where there was a change in the intensity and flow. These subtle changes in the music were verified by the look and smile on Jon Gagan’s face, to confirm most definitely, that what I was hearing was unique to that moment.
Yeah, Jon’s face gives it away. As a musician you can’t help yourself, your whole body reacts to the muse. It can be an individual players achievement or the achievement of the whole group, e.g. an extra-tight groove… And, really, it’s the reason we tour and perform – to experience those little magic moments.
If somebody told me that I could see a certain guitar player performing solo in Seattle in April, I would….wait. I already did!
Without being overly simple, live is live. Nothing else compares. It’s like having a conversation with the music as it pours from the source. Taking in new ideas and processing them without the option of rewinding (left over from cassette days) to hear it again. Everything is now.
Now if I can scrape together enough cash to get to Australia this summer….
The “live experience” is the listeners passive attempt to becoming part of the performance – in a way. Creating for themselves that shared group experience. The visual atomoshere, enables the everyday viewer to come in contact, if you will, with the artist. Observing “live” for ones-self comprehending, absorbing the sounds, the gestures the personality in bits and pieces brings us (stranger with a common interest) all together, like glue in an energy that cant compare to TV or the stereo system at home!