Re: You had to be there...
Posted by Paul Serotsky on June 23, 2019, 5:13 am, in reply to "You had to be there..."
With apologies for going on at some length in putting in my four penn'orth: this discussion reminds me of two relevant experiences. The first, some fifty years ago, was an after-dinner argument with a fellow student. It being a relatively "new thing" back then, the question of "high fidelity" had cropped up. I had contended that, under the definition of "hi-fi", the best that it could achieve would be an exact copy of the original sound. My friend countered with, "Oh, no, one day hi-fi will be BETTER than the original sound!" His point was that he envisaged a situation where the technology would have developed to such a degree that you could tailor the sound exactly to your personal preferences; mine was that if you did that, then even if it sounded "better" to YOU, it wouldn't - nay, couldn't - be "hi-fi", because it would of necessity be further away from the original sound than what you started from. |
The second began scarcely more recently. It's over forty years since I discovered Harry Partch and his Corporeal philosophy. This is a tricky one even to define, but in its broadest sense it concerns the inclusiveness of an ideal dramatic experience, not just the egalitarian integration of the contributing arts - words, music, dance, costume, set designs etc. - but also the ritual of an experience shared between all the participants, performers and audience alike. One interesting rider to this is Partch's wry comment, that he made whilst packing LPs of his music, "It lacks half the take."
All that firmly places the live event smack-bang at centre-stage, and what the entire issue boils down to is this question: "In playing a recording under OPTIMUM conditions, what is missing?" This brings together the two points above: if the fi is as hi as it can possibly be, is there a "half the take", the lack of which Partch ruefully regretted - and if so, what is it? Clearly there IS one (otherwise this discussion would be dead in the water), so, whatever it is must be that elusive factor that makes the live experience forever superior to the recorded one.
By a simple process of subtraction - of all the sound and images (and, for that matter, editing) - it must follow that the key factor is the performers and audience being in one another's immediate physical presence: that they are participants in a communal ritual. What is communicated between them, whether players or listeners, is the "frisson" of the occasion. Granted, the nature of this frisson is not easy to pin down, as it seems to border on telepathy; yet, I reckon, no-one can actually deny it, because we all feel it and many reviewers even report feeling it. Moreover, in this context, it matters not whether there are several hundred performers - or only one.