On musical recordings

A little follow up to my last entry talking about musical form . . .

Over the past few years I’ve noticed that I like hearing certain musicians live better than on their precisely recorded albums. I may have said something to this effect a year or two ago as well, but the idea has become more pronounced in the past six months or so. A few examples.

Last month I heard Leesha Harvey play at Grand Island’s Art in the Park. I really enjoyed the brief set where she played guitar and harmonica, with one person backing her up. I bought her album, and on first listen I was missing the simplicity of her live performance.

In Nashville we were privileged enough to be at an Andrew Peterson concert (I really wanted to go to a Katie Herzig concert the next evening, but on account of the Hutchmoot festivities decided against even trying to make that). I didn’t know who Peterson was but very much appreciated his use of instrumentation. An upright bass, Kenny Hutson playing a variety of stringed instruments. When we listened to the Counting Stars album on the drive back though, it was a bit anticlimactic.

So what’s different about live performances? Firstly, they aren’t perfect. Secondly, they aren’t usually as complex in that there aren’t layers of recordings (from what I understand) such as on a finished CD. Thirdly, the quality of the voices and the instruments is, well, accurate. This last point may be the most important to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having so much music available to be played on my home stereo, our entire library on one little electronic device — our eclectic collection literally at a fingertip. But I wonder with this luxury we’re missing out on something as listeners. I’m probably not the first person to suggest this, but it’s been on my mind.

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About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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