Live Electronic Music or Prefab Performance

I’ve seen something live 10 concerts in the last two weeks. Six of them were Echoes living room concerts. Besides the London shows you’ve read about in previous EchoesBlogs, we just had Don Peris in with his trio. And the week prior to our London trip I saw three phenomenal live shows, Andreas Vollenweider, Mogwai and Malachi Thompson’s Free-Bop. It brought to mind how concepts of live music have changed.
Distance
For Marconi Union’s Echoes LRC, only their second live show ever, a performance is two guys staring into a lap top with one of them doubling on guitar. I love the music to death. On CDs it’s completely elevating, but in concert, there just isn’t quite enough sweat. On the other hand, jazz trumpeter Malachi Thompson and especially his sax player, Billy Harper, just screamed as they created music in the moment, negotiating continual walks to the edge in another great show put on by the Ars Nova Workshop.
Mr. Beast
Same thing with Mogwai, the Scottish band who created delicate moments alternating with walls of electronic sound in a live show at Philadelphia’s Starlight Ballroom put on by another great production company, R5. Even Vollenweider, who makes a pretty meticulous music, had a different kind of energy when he played recent shows at The Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA and the Whitaker Center in Harrisburg. As a longtime supporter of electronic music, I’m just wondering aloud if this is really a vehicle for live performance. Tangerine Dream used to improvise on stage, but now they walk on stage, hit play on a computer and occasionally tap a keyboard. Is that any better than the old days when an electronic composer would walk on stage, hit play on a tape recorder and walk off? It’s music, but is it performance?
-John Diliberto

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