My own creative endeavor into music, Burning Ships, is not treated as a live act. I actually use no studio or guest musicians to record (to date), nor any extras to tour the music with. The project is treated as art and expression and not as a performance. I truly believe most strongly in studio production for music. And I feel that studio recordings of my work allow me to use any instrument or device to create this work without the worry of recreating all of these sounds and emotional inflections for a live audience.
The concept of live music is really a device of the performance artist. And, typically, content has little or no bearing. But the performance is what is treated with such care and interest. It involves the audience at many intimate levels as a shared experience. A lovely approach and notion. It’s value always seems to lie in the fact that it is ephemeral. It will never be repeated the exact same way. So each performance is unique. Therein lies the true charm of “live” music.
However, in my experience and opinion, live music never captures any true lasting vibe. Just the memory of it. And we all know how malleable memory is. A shapeshifter at best. Personally, I so enjoy building lasting art that one can revisit over and over, again and again. It will always remain intact. It will always be “the” performance. The real representation of the intended work. The lasting emotional tie to the art, as it were, without having to reassess each new performance as a new version of a work. It is the difference between gazing at any favorite painting as it is and allowing for the expectation that every time you go to enjoy that work, it could be altered in some way simply by the artist’s emotional condition at that very moment. Or your own, for that matter.
Indeed, the concept of an ever-changing piece of work sounds quite interesting, but the work would never consistently represent whatever you mapped onto it in your heart and mind when you first beheld it. It is a destructive creative approach and keeps us at a certain distance from the artist’s original intent. An ever-changing piece of work, be it a painting, a piece of music, or any other permanent representation, would be perfectly normal in all states if the original intent of the artist was to have it exist in this ephemeral way. However, constantly readjusting a piece of work that actually stands for an exact moment in time, or an emotional extension of that moment will cause us to lose the meaning behind all of our social and personal experiences, or icons. In essence, we would lose ourselves by constantly changing the exact objects and associations that bind us to our own feelings and the ability to describe those feelings and memories with more than words – with these pieces of art. It seems self-destructive to constantly change the art with which we bind ourselves (our innermost selves) to the world around us, past and present.
Each of these ‘Icons’ represent a moment in time in our lives. They help ground us in our own history. To lose them, or to constantly alter them would be to remove any sense of past. We could no longer have a direct link to our personal emotional selves.
One could argue that this is a great way to reinvent yourself. But I must ask, in that case, how much of you would ever be left in you? It may be fair to say that anyone whose life needs that much reinvention may not be anyone at all. Over time you would become a ghost of several individuals. This does not seem particularly fulfilling nor does it feel very genuine. It takes so long for us to actually find ourselves that throwing in a curve ball like constant self-reinvention would never give one the chance of knowing whom one was. It is a far more drastic approach than simply changing one’s location, lifestyle, or appearance.
Of course, one can also make the argument that people simply change over the years anyway. Their emotions and their ability to understand the world around them ebbs and flows in immeasurable directions and variations. One could further argue that these changes in a person’s life change their perceptions of their own history and memories held most dear. This is true and it is why I believe our ‘Icons’ help keep us tied to our truths. They keep us linked to our realities and our past in ways we cannot deny. Of course, we all have some memories that we would prefer to keep locked away, but the fact that these creative icons in our life can bring a whole slew of memories pouring back onto us keeps us human. Keeps us feeling, whether good or bad, and grounds us in its honesty. Of course there will always be subtle differences in the things we remember, even when we use these icons to help us, but the gist of the actual experience will always remain intact.
There is even the argument that art of any kind is in the actual making of said art. The creating of the work, a la ‘the performance,’ is the true art itself. And this I agree with, but it is only true for the artist himself. It is the artist’s emotional display and connection to the art that matters in the creation of any work. Any performance. It is never shared or experienced by the audience, no matter how closely we watch in the making of any creation. We can never assume the mental and physical association and links that anyone else has. It goes far beyond empathy. And anyone claiming this ability is a charlatan.
There are also many out there who will simply argue that the live performance is a magical experience unlike any other. Well, this is true and at many levels. But to go and actually listen to or watch a video of a performance we fell in love with (for example), you will most often have to admit that the quality was never really there to begin with. It is the charm that we place on the actual experience and not the content that matters most. The temperature, the lighting, the mood, the alcohol, the person we were with. All of the intangibles that persuade our memories of something that never really took place in quite the fashion we think we remember it in.
And this is why having witnessed and experienced the actual “art” and not its representation via performance is so important to an artist like myself. Shows are fun and can even be moving. But the piece you can listen to or experience over and over again as an unchanged beacon of your true emotional ties to a particular moment is the closest to honesty any one of us will ever carry around for the rest of our lives. These icons become a linear time line which we can reference from anywhere at any time. And the sum of all of these icons equals our true inner selves. Surely, our true selves.