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Lets say that you're at the Grand Canyon and you take a picture, just a quick snapshot to bring home. When you show that snapshot to someone else, they can look at it and get an idea of what it is like to be there at the Grand Canyon, but they can never truly know what it was like to be there, and even if they were to go, it would be different every time because the world is an ever evolving place.
Ok, lets say that instead of taking a snapshot, you put your heart and soul into your picture of the Grand Canyon so much that it because a completely unique and powerful artistic work. Even then that artistic work is only capturing part of what it is actually all about to be there. It may evoke powerful emotions and be so artistic that it represents things far beyond just being a picture of a canyon, but it can never replace the experience of actually being there, even though it might be something else incredible in its own right.
Now, lets say that this time, you craft a picture so incredible that it perfectly captures everything possible about that particular moment at the Grand Canyon, that a picture is capable of capturing. The same thing is true, it is still just a single moment captured from a specific viewpoint, not an accurate representation of the Grand Canyon as a dynamic place at all. It may accurately represent that moment in time and the particular viewpoint from which the picture was taken, but that is only a slice of the entire scene.
I see music and songs as a very dynamic system, a bit like the Grand Canyon, ever changing and evolving even from one moment to the next. An album, is a bit like a photograph, a captured moment of that dynamic system, but just like a photograph, no matter how perfectly crafted it is, it can never truly capture everything about that dynamic system; aka the music and songs on the album. This is a bit of a convoluted metaphor (go with it for a second), but I think it accurately describes why I am such a big supporter of music being performed as live as possible. The live show, you see, that is like being there, at the rim of the canyon praying that the railing doesn't give out, while an album may be a fantastic representation of a band live or even a artistic masterpiece of composition on it's own, but it can never be the same as seeing those songs performed in real time, in front of a real audience by a real band.
In the digital era there has been an increasing amount of desire to have live concerts sound as close to the album as possible and even worse, a desire to push towards perfection in concert by infusing the music with digital components, click tracks, prerecorded backing tracks, prerecorded vocals, or other things that take away the realism of actually being there listening to the band play.
I do not appreciate this at all, and it is such a pet peeve of mine that I rant about it all the time (apparently using quasi effective metaphors involving the American southwest).
Would you go see the Grand Canyon if instead of actually stepping up to the rim all you can do is peer down at a computer generated image?
Would you be satisfied seeing the Grand Canyon if it was exactly the same every time as some picture in a book?
I sure wouldn't... wouldn't even go... at least not for what concert tickets/a trip to the Grand Canyon costs these days. That just seems like a big waste of money.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the creativity of digital music, electonica, or any artists that use some of the methods I've described for as I've said before, there are some artists doing amazing things live with digital methods. I'm just not interested in going to see a band perform where they could have just as easily set the album versions playing and mimed along, no matter how great that album may be. I don't want to go see how good a band is at sounding like their album, or how good their production is on their backing tapes. Instead, at a concert, I want to see what that band can bring when the chips are down and the audience is ready to rock. I'm expecting it to be very alive, real, maybe even improvised, and most importantly, played with some feeling by the actual band members, not entirely by a computer, tape track or anything else.
Maybe you want to go see a computer generated image of the Grand Canyon, or are satisfied seeing a photograph, but I want to go experience the real thing in all its dynamic, ever changing glory.