The recent death of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, has made clear just how much we rely on technology in virtually every aspect of our lives. This reliance is especially clear in regards to our musical experience; whether checking out a taping of a concert or music video on YouTube or downloading a favorite song on iTunes, we constantly use electronic media as a means of learning and experiencing music.
In many ways this is a blessing. Music and performances from a vast array of performers and cultures are literally at our fingertips. Social media spread information regarding musical talent, and many musical moments that would have otherwise existed only in their own fleeting moment of creation are preserved through visual and audio means for generations of future music lovers and aspiring musicians to enjoy.
However, I have to wonder - are such recordings, however conveniently accessible they may be, a worthy replacement of the live concert experience that was at one time our only opportunity to experience music-making? My humble opinion is that it is not. The many sensorial and communal aspects of live performances are such that cannot be truly duplicated through recordings. The energy of being in a live venue, be it the Metropolitan Opera House on opening night or a local coffee shop for an acoustic session, and being a part of the give and take between performer and audience is one that cannot be captured in MP3 format. The imperfections that are spliced out of edited material, yet are inevitable in performance not only add a level of realism and humanity to the music, but also provide a wonderful example for aspiring performers who must learn how to handle and exploit imperfections in their own performances to their fullest advantage. Watching and listening to someone enthrall a room full of people with their voice and stage presence is rewarding and can be incredibly inspiring for their own endeavors.
We are fortunate to live so close to multiple metropolitan areas that offer hundreds of concerts, musicals, operas, rock shows, and other forms of musical entertainment for our listening and learning pleasure. I encourage you to enjoy the experience of live music-making, be it at a performance of the New York Philharmonic or at your local school!
Eileen Cooper, Voice Teacher at Hunterdon Academy of the Arts in Flemington, NJ