Tuesday, February 20, 2007

some observations i brought home

Things I’ve learned from, observed during, and affirmed by, my recent excursion:

  • Your best performances are not necessarily when you feel most confident, positive or focussed.
  • Nor are they necessarily when you feel most relaxed or comfortable.
  • If there’s one person in the audience, that’s the most important person at that moment.
  • Improvisation gives you enormous scope to interact with the audience.
  • Maybe all interactions between audience and performer are improvisative.
  • Maybe all interactions are improvisative.
  • It’s a difficult skill to accept praise gracefully.
  • Electro-acoustic improvisation is performed by, on the whole, young-ish, white men.
  • Laptops are the instruments of the socially inept.
  • The quality of an electro-acoustic improvisation is inversely proportional to the number of laptops visible on stage.
  • The rhetoric that supports much of live computer music remarkably resembles that of post-Reaganite, free-market capitalism (e.g. ‘choice and freedom’).
  • A significant fraction of experimental musicians (“we’re artists, dammit”) refuse to take into account, or learn from (the mistakes of), the vernacular (“we’re avant-garde, dammit”).
Right now I’m just glad to be home, but I’m sure I’ll return to look at some of these issues in depth….


Anonymous said...

That's the first time that I've been called young-ish for some time... (or do sound engineers not count as performers?)

the improvising guitarist said...

Well, that probably means I’m getting old… ;-)

…and I was making a gross generalization.

Apologies: yes, sound engineers are definitely performers. Sorry about the confusion, I should have qualified the use of the term ‘electro-acoustic improvisation’: I meant EAI.

docker said...

All trenchant observations, IMHO. Especially the one about accepting praise gracefully (I have a rule "Always accept a compliment" but it's often hard not to break.)

Obviously you had a successful trip and I didn't hear you play a note.

David (who is oldish and who believes a live laptop can be a dangerous weapon)

the improvising guitarist said...

“I have a rule ‘Always accept a compliment’ but it's often hard not to break.”

I know what you mean. The first few observations were actually related: we didn’t particularly think the performance was great, but we got a lot of positive feedback. Consequently it was at times hard not to think that the compliments were meaningless, phony and/or unknowledgeable.

“…I didn't hear you play a note.”

Well, you never know, maybe some day in the future….

Thanks for your feedback!

S, tig

Good Times said...

If a drum can hurt all manner of feelings, one would think a lap top wired for sound should be able to bring (our) civilization to it's knees.

Perhaps it has.

Where exactly did you go? Sounds like there were some 'gales of creative distruction' a blowin, so to speak. (Pray tell, did you ever see "Bedtime for Bonzo?")

Did you make a recording that can be shared with your virtual audience?

Welcome back.

the improvising guitarist said...

“…one would think a lap top wired for sound should be able to bring (our) civilization to it's knees.”

There’s a whole bunch of issues here; too much to be discussed in a few sentences. I’ll return to these issues in a future post, but meanwhile, let me quote an email message I wrote to AF:

“a. The laptop interface encourages a narcissistic attitude. That
clam-shell interface was designed to create a virtual, private office
space in a, say, semi-public airplane seat. That's not an inescapable
or inevitable position, but very few laptopiteers are either aware of
this, nor are they actively deconstructing it. Which is related to my
next observation....
“b. A lot of computer musicians are interested in, if I caricature it
for the moment, computer science issues at the expense of issues of
culture, tradition, stage presence or the body and the corporeal. I'm
a big a fan of engineering as the next guy, but to simply transpose
that into performance space (the concert hall, the club) leaves a lot
to be desired.
“Combining, a and b, as an audience member, I find the whole experience
alienating. But as a cautionary tale of technological music practice,
it's interesting and instructive....”

“Where exactly did you go?”

I’m afraid I enjoy my blogosphere anonymity far too much to answer that question ;-)

“Pray tell, did you ever see ‘Bedtime for Bonzo?’”

No. Is there anything to recommend other than the shock of seeing the future possessor of the nuclear button in an earlier life?

“Did you make a recording that can be shared with your virtual audience?”

Hopefully. I’ll see what happens....

“Welcome back.”

Thanks. Good to be back.

S, tig

the improvising guitarist said...

As way of reply: ‘the closed laptop pt. 0: a cautionary tale of performance practice’….