Tuesday, February 26, 2019

What is live, anyway?

Hello all,
I'd like to relate a recent experience I had while watching Netflix with my partner. As I was a big comic book reader when I was a kid, I was interested to see the "Riverdale" series to check out the updated story of Archie Andrews and his friends. Early on, whenever they made reference to music, I found it silly and annoying. Archie's supposedly a songwriter, but the only tunes we hear are wimpy, emo remakes of '80s songs. Josie and the Pussycats gigs seem to have less to do with performing music, and more about how to put young bodies into form-fitting catsuits. ( Considering these are supposed to be high school students, although I'm sure all the cast are at least in their 20s, this is disconcerting and creepy.) Fortunately, these parts of the show are mercifully  brief, and I usually just excuse myself until they're over. I get it. Most people don't know what it's like to be a musician. I'm sure most police officers and navy seals find how they are portrayed in drama laughable. So, I tried to focus on the story. But last night we watched an episode that centred on a party inside a biker bar. For some weird reason, Archie and Veronica and performing at this party. Right away the usual music drama bs marks are hit. Lame version of an 80s tune? Yep,  Tears for Fears' "Mad World". Sounds of instruments, but no sign of said instruments or players in sight? Absolutely. Do Archie's and Veronica's singing voices sound like their speaking voices? Not much, but I'll play along and assume the actors are doing their own singing. But now it starts to get REALLY weird. A & V get into an argument on stage, so they just leave in the middle of the song! The backing track keeps playing, so Betty decides to finish the number. Now, again Betty's voice doesn't seem to be any different from Veronica's, but again I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt. Now, because she's supposed to be initiated into a gang, Betty starts stripping, while she's singing!!! But halfway through this not at all salacious or gratuitous show of skin, Betty moves off-mic to continue peeling, AND THE VOCALS STILL CONTINUE!!!!!!! WTF????????????????

So, you're probably thinking I'm making a big deal about nothing. It's just a show Ted. Maybe the Betty vocal/strip show was supposed to be some sort of dream sequence ( and I can't tell you, how in this day and age, how inappropriate this feels ). But, I think it points to a larger issue of how music performance is portrayed, or even carried out, in our current pop culture landscape.

I think because of the many contest shows out there, in a lot of people's eyes ( and ears ) being a musician means singing, usually not your own songs, in from of some prefab backing track. Many "live" gigs use backing tracks, especially for vocals. One of the many issues with this "arena karaoke" is that audiences are rarely familiarized with the many variables of live singing and playing. If people go to hear KISS or Mariah Carey and don't  hear "exactly" what they hear on a recording, they will think it's an inferior performance. Performing is tough! Especially vocally. I've always said that if one hears a good live vocal on some youtube video made with a cellphone, it's probably a great vocalist. Even if one hears a mediocre singer under those conditions, they probably still  are a capable, or  great vocalist on a bad night.

This is also true of instrumentalists. So, in conclusion, here's  " So What " fromMiles Davis at Carnegie Hall. Check out the trumpet entrance after ( I think ) Paul Chambers perhaps takes the tune faster than they were anticipating. Yeah, it sounds pretty rough, but they kept it. You know why? "Cause the rest of it kills!!!

Live music is not for the faint of heart ( or ears ) folks, so let's play and listen with everything we've got and be courageous!!!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment