Digital Music to Replace Live Performances? Could Happen…

The thing about a concert experience is that you can’t download it. It’s something that’s happening RIGHT NOW and if you’re in the moment (and not looking at it through your goddam cell phone), you’re sharing that moment with dozens, hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of other humans.  Such a communal experience can be…transcendent.

And there’s beauty in watching musicians perform. The way they react to the crowd. The unexpected twists and turns in the performance. Yeah, maybe some technical mistakes are made, but that’s what makes live music live. Sometimes beauty requires imperfections to become more beautiful.

But then comes along Scientific American to ruin everything. This is from an article called “Why Digital Music Looks to Replace Live Performances.”

This August’s production of Richard Wagner’s four-opera Ring cycle in Hartford, Conn., has been postponed.

Rather than hiring pit musicians, producer Charles M. Goldstein had intended to accompany the singers with sampled instrument sounds, played by a computer. Not a CD, not a synthesizer; the computer triggers the playback of individual notes (“samples”) originally recorded from real instruments.

The reaction of professional musicians—and, of course, the musicians’ union—was swift and furious. New York City’s Local 802 president called it operatic karaoke. Hate mail poured in. In the end, the opera’s music director, as well as two of the stars, withdrew from the production.

My first thought is “Pop, rock and hip hop performers have been tracking performances for years! It’s inevitable that classical music would be sucked into this.”  I’m not saying it’s right–it’s not–but it’s not like we couldn’t see this coming.

Here’s the sad truth: more and more audiences are expecting a live performance to sound just like the studio recording. The only way to do that is to reproduce the studio recording in a live performance setting. I HATE this attitude, but it’s the way things have been heading for years now.

Somewhere, Milli Vanilli is going “See? We were just ahead of our time! Can we have our Grammys back now?”

Read on.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Digital Music to Replace Live Performances? Could Happen…

Let us know what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.