The first time I recognized the magic of European classical music was when pianist Richard Goode came to a small church in Olympia, Wa. I think I was in my twenties by this time (or maybe my teens), and although I loved jazz, classical music was only interesting, nothing more. Anyway, he started playing some Bach, and it was beautiful, organic, alive. I was totally transfixed throughout the entire concert. I was hearing something that lived and breathed just like me. And Bach was written how many centuries ago? The idea that it was “old” music never crossed my mind.
This was the same experience I had seeing Ornette Coleman in concert. I couldn’t really get into his recordings so much, but the first time I saw him live I felt like I had just heard and witnessed something miraculous. Which leads me to the point of this entry: For a newcomer, in order to “get what all the fuss is about” in jazz or classical music, I believe it has to be seen live. At least once, but preferably multiple times to really give it a chance. Kind of like drinking coffee – I sure as heck didn’t like it the first few times I drank it, but once I got it, I … actually, I need to cut down on coffee. Moving on: Once a new listener can witness the energy firsthand, then they can recognize that spirit in a cd or video, but from my experience it’s hard for most people to hear what’s happening if they’ve only been exposed to recorded media.
Opera, especially, is almost completely flattened out on a video – it simply has to be seen live. And it needs to be seen live in a big concert hall – that’s what opera is designed for.
Contrast this with a lot of rock, pop, rap, etc… which seems to present itself better in recordings. Often it’s very effective in on cd or video, because the engineering process adds a lot of subtleties that often aren’t really weren’t there when the band played the music (assuming there are musicians). This is why a group might sound great on record but are very often disappointing in a live situation.
So this is my new theory:
Jazz, Classical = Better seen live
Current popular music (MTV, BET) = Better on recording