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.


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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