Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Play it again

I remember sitting next to a professor of music on a long flight to somewhere or other. He was staring resentfully at my iPod and so I asked him what he had against it. Turns out that his response wasn’t about branding or technology standards or design. He simply wouldn’t listen to recorded music. Full stop. The bottom line for him was that a recording by its nature is always the same. That’s the idea. It is always exactly the same. Unlike live performances once you heard it once, that was the way you were going to hear it every time from then on. I love my iPod and seem to remember making a case for it in terms of access and choice, but he was adamant. I remember thinking what a load of rubbish - until I went to my next live music event that is.

The fact is that recorded music is fine until you hear …the real thing. Real, live people and their instruments up there on the high wire doing their thing. Sometimes they fail and the room dies. Sometimes they find something fresh and extraordinary within themselves and we all take off together. There’s nothing quite like it. When I think of the great experiences I’ve had at live concerts, especially those involving Bruce and the E Street band, I relive the thrill, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing.

As for performing music live (and Bruce would concur), the great conductor Daniel Barenboim said in November to the New York Times, “When playing music, it is possible to achieve a unique state of peace, partly due to the fact that one can control, through sound, the relationship between life and death. Since every note produced by a human being has a human quality, there is a feeling of death with the end of each one, and through that experience there is a transcendence of all the emotions that these notes can have in their short lives; in a way, one is in direct contact with timelessness.” (A whirlwind named Barenboim – New York Times 11/23/2008).

Music is one of the great joys of life and however you get it into your system, that’s ok by me. I’m not alone. The music experience stats headed up in the short period from 2007 to 2008. Bauer Media’s research calls them consumption stats but that’s a reach too far as far as I’m concerned. We experience music; we do not consume it because it’s always there for someone else to fall in love with. The number of people passionate about music is heading up as well. It might be because there is so much more music around to connect with or because it’s all become so much easier (take a bow Apple), but the exciting thing is whether you’re a fanatic or simply along for the ride, everyone loves lots of different kinds of music. Hallelujah! Bring on the ballads, bring on the rock and roll.

If music be the food of love, play on.