Perfection Sucks

I love live recordings. I love it when I can buy a CD or DVD of a concert. Oh, I despise those overproduced über-concerts that make you wonder if the music is was actually created by a human hand or if someone just programmed a computer. See Madonna and Brittney Spears for examples of that type of music/concert.

No, I love raw concerts where it’s just the band playing. Maybe there’s some fancy lighting and a backdrop. It’s practiced, but not overproduced. It’s spontaneous. It is often magical. It’s everything that most modern recorded studio music rarely is. It’s not perfect. But it’s damn good. It does the one thing those studio computers can never hope to do: It makes you feel.

Oh, studio recordings are fine. It’s just too carefully controlled to find true magic. How can it? That music is mostly made from soulless technology. It’s pretty technology with some pretty results, to be sure, but it doesn’t find that right mix of spontaneity and practice to make it to magic.

SOAP BOX: Just because we have the technology to make perfect music doesn’t mean that it all should be perfect music. But we seem obsessed with perfection. They piece together clips from different concerts or recording sessions to find perfection. What kind of way is that to make music? Studios crank out “ultimate” Mozart CDs almost every year. And I don’t even want to speculate how many “definitive” Wagner, Tchaikovsky, and Vivaldi collections there are out there.

Certainly, they’re perfect. They’re mostly emotionless. And that’s a shame. People think that’s the way “classical” music should be. They think that’s the way all music should be.

That’s nuts. Music isn’t perfect. It’s imaginative, crazy, messy, beautiful, emotive, complicated, easy, and a million other things… Perfect it ain’t.

If they’d just go see a live concert, they’d realize that all the music they relegate as lifeless “elevator” music can be stirring when spontaneity is introduced via a live performance.

But it’s not just the “classical” music industry that makes emotionless music. Modern music studios are just as guilty. See the aforementioned Brittney and Madonna. Even country music, once the last bastion of real feeling in modern music, has mostly succumbed to the perfection of cranking out assembly line songs. It’s a pity.

So, who do I listen to? I love Alison Krauss and Union Station (How many Grammys is that now? 26 or so? Sheesh). I’m crazy about CCR, the Mamas and the Papas (who are, ironically enough, the mamas and papas of modern over-produced music – though their music confusingly retained emotion and spontaneity), Harry Connick Jr., Eva Cassidy, Etta James, Wynton Marsalis, Norah JonesJohan de Meij, and Renee Fleming, to name a few.