Why listen to live music?

There is a treasury’s wealth of recorded music available to listeners, especially with the advent of online streaming. Recording technology allows musicians to overdub, rerecord over mistakes, and produce music in its best form before releasing to the public. Why would one bother going to see it live?

New music

No performance of music is identical. In fact, in lots of genres, improvisation is a big part of the music. If you already enjoy a particular musician’s recording, going to see them play live is a chance to see new music created right in front of you. Sometimes alternate takes of tracks on classic jazz recordings like Bill Evans’ Sunday at the Village Vanguard are released and you get to hear the same song in a different light. Going to a live performance means hearing a new and unique perspective.

Watching musician interactions

Watching musicians interact with each other on the bandstand is like a behind-the-scenes look into how music is created. Live performers will trade meaningful looks, directions, and even laugh about musical jokes as they play. Visuals give yet another layer to the music to be enjoyed and appreciated. Even watching body language and facial expressions can give you a window into the emotion of how a performer relates to their music.

Identifying where sounds are coming from

Sometimes a big part of music is not just the sound, but how the sounds are created. Pat Metheny, in his Orchestrion Project creates rich and layered textures from a large collection of music playing robots called orchestrions, but you wouldn’t be able to tell without seeing it in a video or in person.

Josh Dion from Paris Monster plays drums and synthesizers while singing all at the same time, but without watching, you’d never know. And when you hear sounds you don’t know how to identify, being able to see can help identify where it’s coming from.

Interacting with musicians

Music, especially improvised music, is always affected by the context in which it’s performed. Live performances allow you to hear music that’s created for a specific time and place. Sometimes, you may even get the opportunity to speak with the musicians directly and hear them tell you what the different songs mean to them.

Focused time for listening

It’s often really easy to be distracted when listening to recorded music as you go about your day. We often listen to music as background noise while working or studying and much of the detail that makes music beautiful is lost. Attending a live performance allows for a focused time and space for appreciating music.

Unrecorded music

Lastly, much of the world’s music is just never recorded. Live performances mean more opportunities to hear music that will either have not yet or will never be available otherwise!

There are myriad reasons why seeing live music, whether large touring acts or smaller local bands, is a good idea. Go check out what’s happening in your city and support live music!

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