What is the attraction of the live event? Why pack stadiums to see a live band play, or a person speak, when the venue is so enormous you can barely discern live moving figures on the stage? Why overfill a club to hear the live performance of an album when you know the musician’s input will be, at most, pushing a few buttons? Is it the impossibility of touch ups and edits? This seems unlikely in an age where big name live events involve so much playback and backup planning that they are hitch-free almost to a fault. It must be the ‘being there’ both time and place with the live performer. In which case, what is so important about the artist’s presence?
These questions were among those crisscrossing the table over coffee and cake with a few sound studies colleagues. We had all seen and heard Amon Tobin’s recent performance which involved an innovative 3D projection surface: a cubicle like structure featuring the artist sitting (playing) in a white cube in the middle. He was only visible at fleeting moments when the lights changed in a particular way, staring at a computer and (one can only assume) actively playing his music. But who knows? That is the main trouble with laptop concerts, is it not? Unless an artist makes a concerted effort to prove otherwise, they are suspected of checking facebook, the latest news, or their bank account. It is an interesting (mis)trust system.
Once a musician or performer can be abstracted from the music spatially the way that computer music allows (or any amplification/reproduction system really) then the standard uni-directional and immobile stage concept becomes questionable. Not defunct per se but up for re-examination. Why build a structure for projections that only faces one direction? Why not have the artist in the middle of the crowd accessible to the people rather than distanced by an overwhelming scenography?