I’d like to think that music and art can exist perfectly on their own. A crazy, impractical dream, I know. Just like everyone else, my relationship with art, both as viewer/listener and as a creator, is tempered by, among many other things, where and when I live, my cultural background and my own tastes.
One thing that’s struck me over the last little while is how much my own reaction to art is affected by technical matters. For instance, every time I see a show or movie shot in one frame rate and then played back at another frame rate (i.e. the “soap opera effect“) I can’t help but think of an amateur level production. The bizarre look instantly pulls me out of the story. It’s the same deal for me with audio that is out of sync with the picture. Even a little drives me nuts. I end up trying to figure out whether the audio is ahead or behind the picture and not being engaged with the story.
A somewhat less obvious affect of context is the power of an audience. Many performers say they feed off the energy of an audience. I think that is clearly true even when watching talk shows, that normally have an audience, try to do their show in an empty theatre. Sometimes they fall down. In music, there are lots of examples of bands bringing at least a few people into the studio to try to create a live music atmosphere. It’s just a different energy.
I’ve played quite a few live gigs over the years, but the thing I’ve done most in my career is record in my own studio. Other than when I’m lucky enough to have other musicians on my records, I write, perform and engineer most of the music. So I never have an audience (or even a producer or engineer) there for what I do most. How has that changed my own music? I really don’t know specifically, but I’m guessing it must have generally. The reality is I’m primarily alone in a room, which makes a large part of my artistic life similar to a painter or a writer. The other reality is, that at this point, the context of how and where I make music is engrained in my artistic make up.