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Brett Lipshutz / Blog

Live music : listening experience or ambience booster?

I have noticed over the years that the general public has become more and more immune to any effect that live musicians may have had on them, when in spaces other than concert venues. Whether this is due to the businesses’ habit of hiring musicians to provide “noise” to fill the void or musicians’ willingness to be hired for those jobs, I cannot say. However, as long as we continue to accept money for gigs that do not provide dignified settings for the music we do, we will never be recognized as anything but a commodity.

On one hand, perhaps we must ask ourselves as musicians why we play music. If the music we play is only a product to justify making money, then the current paradigm is just fine. On the other hand, if we intend by our music to create some form of what we might call art, then the current situation necessitates a massive change. In most venues, the people who are not playing music feel it almost a right to be able to chat with friends, to the point where if the music is loud, they will talk even louder. What, if anything, does the music add to their lives? It is important to ask this question.

Is there value in learning about the music we “listen to”? Do we know how to listen so that the music we hear becomes more than a series of random sounds that we may or may not remember when we leave the performance? Do we know how to listen so that we gain an appreciation for the differences between the performances of one single tune by several different musicians? More importantly, do we want to know how to do this?

When we say music is important in our lives, what do we mean?

What are our perceptions, whether valid or not, of the different types of music we listen to?

How can we as musicians create a world that cares not only that we make noise to fill the silent void and create ambience, but also what meaning our music holds?