How do you listen to music most of the time?
I am an incurable record collector. For me, the ability to hear something whenever I want it is more alluring than most live concert experiences. And there are so musicians I want to hear whom I would never be able to hear any other way than on a recording, due to both geographic and chronological obstacles.
That said, the experience of a great live concert is pretty spectacular. And, when I’m able to zone out coughers and snorers (at classical concerts), chit-chatters and pushy waitstaff (at jazz clubs), and overall roudiness (at rock events), I have a really great time. Music that is less familiar, e.g. non-Western traditional music, makes for the most enlightening of live concert experiences because you can actually see how the sounds are being made. Music you’ve only heard on recordings offers some hidden surprises when you discover it live for the first time.
Outdoor music experiences, such as music festivals, offer a less controlled environment which may be sonically inferior to the most acoustically-perfect venues or audiophile recordings, but can be even more rewarding in so many other ways. Few musical encounters of my life can top a performance of Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony I heard outdoors at the Ravinia Festival. A similar encounter with a performance of Ives’ Fourth Symphony outdoors, while ultimately not as musically fulfilling as my old Stokowski LP, still offered a necessary communion with nature, so implicit in that composition, which a turntable or laser beam could never provide…