A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Monday, 23 June 2008

Real, Live Music

Though I must admit I wouldn't go to the ends of the earth to see ballet, I do like the Creative Arts in general. Above all I feel a special love for and affinity with music. For me, music is a direct, immediate gateway to the Divine. But it's got to be real, live music to have this effect. Listening to CDs, as enjoyable as this is, just isn't the same thing at all.

We're surrounded by music a lot of the time - in shops and in lifts, on radio, film and TV - but all this is recorded music, music as wallpaper and background hum. It's frustrating how little we do experience the real, live sound. And when we do we're overwhelmed. Live music - whether it's raga or reggae, classical or country - is a quite different beast from the ersatz, digitally smoothed out, watered down versions of music we constantly hear on ipod and car radio. Somehow during the recording process the heart's been ripped out of it.

When we do get to hear the real thing, it can be shockingly powerful - visceral, compelling, violently emotional, spiritually calming. And hearteningly imperfect. Just listen live to Nina Simone attacking the piano like a revolutionary with a machine gun (sadly no chance to hear her any more), to Cara Dillon melting before your very eyes into the spiritual Celtic Twilight, to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra skewering your soul with that gorgeous melody from the Fourth Movement of Brahms' First Symphony. These live performances can be unforgettable.

In its recorded form, music is good, and it's better than nothing, and it's all we have most of the time. But track down the live stuff, as we did recently in Southwell and Leicester, and the experience can be profound, even life-changing. Each live performance is a one-off, like a piece of theatre. A once-only event, precious in its fleeting uniqueness.

It's Lou Reed in Nottingham this Thursday. I'm looking forward to it...


Anonymous said...

Is he doing 'Berlin'? Have a great time!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yeah, he is. Really looking forward to it!