[Dixielandjazz] Live vs. Studio

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 5 08:43:31 PST 2007

Gordon asked for feedback on live vs. studio recording so here is some. The
first quote is for perspective. The others talk about both types.

1) How Recordings Have Changed Music "For music to remain vital, recordings
   have to exist in balance with live performance, and, these days, live
   performance is by far the smaller part of the equation. Perhaps we tell
   ourselves that we listen to CDs in order to get to know the music better,
   or to supplement what we get from concerts and shows. But, honestly, a
   lot of us don¹t go to hear live music that often. Work leaves us
   depleted. Tickets are too expensive. Concert halls are stultifying. Rock
   clubs are full of kids who make us feel ancient. It¹s just so much easier
   to curl up in the comfy chair with a Beethoven quartet or Billie Holiday.
   But would Beethoven or Billie ever have existed if people had always
   listened to music the way we listen now?" The New Yorker 05/30/05

2) Norman Grantz preferred live & unedited recording. (with great success)
   Gerry Mulligan preferred studio.  For Mulligan's take (and Grantz) see:

3) "Like all virtuosos, Tatum delighted in astonishing and dazzling his
   audiences." Dan Morgensteren (For those who think jazz artists don't
   respond to a live audience)

4) Also Morgenstern talking about the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Band, "Live at
   the Village Vanguard"... "To followers of this great band, its first
   album, good as it was, did not quite indicate just what these guys are
   capable of, perhaps because it was a studio effort. This one, recorded
   live at the band's stomping ground, New York's Village Vanguard, before
   an enthusiastic audience, does give a true picture in sound of what I
   believe to be the finest and most important big jazz band to come along
   since the old giants got their thing together."

To read what some young people think about the issue see:

When musicians record, their invisibility to listeners removes an important
channel of communication, for performers express themselves not only through
the sound of their voices or instruments but with their faces and bodies. In
concert, these gestures color the audience's understanding of the music. As
Igor Stravinsky rightly explained, "The sight of the gestures and movements
of the various parts of the body producing the music is fundamentally
necessary if it is to be grasped in all its fullness."36 The violinist
Itzhak Perlman, for example, is effective in concert in part because his
face registers and reinforces every expressive nuance in the music. Perlman
himself once remarked that "people only half listen to you when you play‹the
other half is watching." The visual aspect of performance is especially
important for pop musicians. What would pop be without the wriggling and
jiggling, the leaping and strutting, the leather and skin, the smoke and
fire? It would merely be sound, and so much the poorer for it.

French soprano Régine Crespin registered her dismay at the artificiality of
performing in the studio:

Fear of an audience is healthy; it stimulates you. The people are there in
front of you. With them there can be mutual lovefests. But how can you fall
in love with a microphone? First of all, a microphone is ugly. It's a cold,
steel, impersonal thing, suspended above your head or resting on a pole just
in front of your nose. And it defies you, like HAL the computer in Stanley
Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey, although at least he talked. No, the
microphone waits, unpitying, insensitive and ultra sensitive at the same
time, and when it speaks, it's to repeat everything you've said word for
word. The beast.

For those who are retired and/or have a lot of time on their hands, see the
below web site for some more historical input from which the above 2
paragraphs are sourced.

Conductor Lorin Maazel is one who views studio recording as artificial
because of 2 main factors. No audience and that orchestras tend to rush the
time in studio for one reason or another. (Others disagree)

Finally, what do fans think? Check out the reviews of a Blue Note Record
that was re-issued in 1999. Original date, 1957.  Sonny Rollins when he was
playing OKOM, or close to it. "A Night at the Village Vanguard". This record
of a live performance is a classic.

Music is not always what is played, but what is perceived by the listener or
viewer (DVDs may well be the next wave) as having been played.

Steve Barbone

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