People have asked me to share recordings of the music I write about so lovingly. But I have a hard time doing that. There is something about the transience of a live performance that I really love, and that I don’t feel you can capture in a recording. I guess I am not really capturing it entirely with words, either, but…well, I don’t know what to say about that. The words feel a lot safer for some reason.
I will admit that really good recordings of OTHER people can give me goosebumps and bring me to tears, but I have yet to experience a recording of myself without listening to it as a judge rather than an observer. And even with a great recording of someone else, it is never quite the same as really being there and experiencing something with all of your senses instead of just with your ears.
Before I had kids, I worked in the marketing department of a music school, where I once had the opportunity to meet Yo Yo Ma in person and to watch him give a master class. My discovery that day was that Yo Yo Ma exudes music and love even when he isn’t playing anything. Even when he is just looking into your eyes and shaking your hand during a brief introduction. It was an incredible experience just to stand next to him. Then I heard him play during the master class. He didn’t even play any piece in its entirety (he was demonstrating for the students), but again, you could feel the love pouring out of him and through his cello with each stroke of the bow. I don’t really know how to adequately put it into words. Although his recordings are beautiful, and they can help me fondly remember that day, there was nothing like seeing him and feeling that energy in the actual moment (although I have to admit, just posting the one below gave me goosebumps even on my crappy computer speakers).
My brother plays the drums in a band. When he is playing, I know exactly what he is feeling when he gets a certain twinkle in his eye and satisfied smile on his face. If he catches my eye in those moments, we share that feeling for an instant. Perhaps it is our shared history and DNA that allow me to recognize myself a little in the expression on his face during those moments; our sibling bond making them that much sweeter, but I can feel the music pouring through him, too. The only thing that beats that feeling is when I have my own twinkle and smirk and the music is pouring through me, or better yet, when the two of us are playing together.
I have a few recordings of our little trio, and I am glad I have them, but mostly for practice purposes. I can listen to them and say, “Hmmm…don’t think I will do that again that way,” or I may hear something from the guitar or sax in a different way that makes me come up with something new to try for next time, but there is a tendency to notice things that may sound “less than perfect;” things that are now captured and not possible to change. This is the antithesis of what music is supposed to feel like for me. Mistakes don’t bother me at all during a performance because they are trumped by that energy that consumes ALL of the senses when you are actually there. When I listen to a recording, I don’t feel the same connection between the musicians as when we are all in a space together and everything gels and gives you that goose-bumpy moment where the planets and stars have clearly aligned and all you can think to say is, “Wow! Now THAT was fun.” This is true when you go to watch someone else perform, too. If you really watch people – whether they are acting in a play or playing music in a band or any other live performance – you can SEE when the artists are connecting with each other. You can FEEL when they are connecting with the audience, and if the audience is feeling it, too, that energy is tangible. But it can’t be caught on tape. Not entirely. I wish it could.
Maybe someday I will post a recording. I don’t have one yet that I want to put out to the cyber-world. Maybe my brother and I will record something together, since he is so good at the engineering part, too? But not today. Today I will just have to try to remember with all my senses what making music feels like. I will just have to sing in the shower and the car and look forward to next Thursday. And you can try to imagine us (we are probably really awesome in your imagination), or you can come out and see us sometime.