Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Received an interesting e-mail today from someone I know in the music biz. He has this idea. Essentially, he's proposing a project that would involve real-time music criticism (or, at least, descriptive writing). As I understand it, the writer would be "performing" at a computer, his/her words displayed on a large screen for the audience, typing away as the musician(s) performs.

Although something about the idea intrigues me, I'm not sure what of value is likely to eventuate from such a situation. Obviously two very different activities are taking place, creating music on the one hand and digesting, understanding (one hopes) and regurgitating one's comprehension in coherent form. The practical difficulties on the part of the writer seem insurmountable if what's desired is more than a blow-by-blow account of the music. I mean, in a typical (good) improvised performance, the "meaning" of the piece only becomes apparent (perhaps in the merest of glimmers) once it's over and the listener can see/hear how all the prior elements have cohered or not. And, obviously, it not only generally takes numerous listens to begin to form an understanding of a piece but it takes concentrated listens, something unlikely to occur if you're typing at the same time, much less under the unaccustomed pressure of doing so publically.

At least as a one-time event. I could almost see, were someone to choose to do so, a writer getting comfortable with the routine over the course of time. Touring, right. Can't for the life of me imagine doing that, though.

Curious to see the responses, if any, of the other writers invited. There were ten, including a few relatively "prominent" (in this neck of the woods) people.

[edit] Rereading the mail, I noticed that the suggestion is made that not only would one be critiquing the performance, but that the musician(s) involved would get some portion of your feedback in real time and decide whether to adjust or not their performance according to your wants. So it would be interactive with the musician. I can't imagine actually doing this. I was thinking who I'd choose to work with (this is an option) and, among NYC area musicians, my favorite might be Sean Meehan. How the hell would or could I comment on a Meehan performance as it's occurring? His music, generally, is of a piece. I'd have no idea what, if anything, to say, until after it's over. "Hey Sean, could you change the pitch of that dowel rubbing? How about dropping a few more grains of rice on your snare? Why not insert a Buddy Rich drumroll here?" I mean, really.

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