That Sound We Want – The pressure of studio perfection on live performance

Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Institute of Art - the venue for recording Massif Trio's premier CD

Here is an interesting thing.  Most music consumers love perfect quality recordings.  Consumers and the industry together have developed a preferred “sound” that the public expects to hear when they listen to their i-tunes, CD’s, etc.  This “sound” is specific to every musical genre, however many genres have the goal of perfection in mind; no mistakes, no flubs, any hiccup and there’s another take.  Producers record massive amounts of material and edit it down to perfection.  Having worked with producers whose art is this process, I am impressed and thankful that they can make me sound so flawless.  But what’s the problem of striving for perfection via 100 takes?

First,

This perfection cannot be duplicated live.  The public goes to said live concert and hopes to be wowed by the perfection that they are accustomed to on the recording.  The result – pressure on the artist to meet the impossible standards of their own produced work.  How many singers tax their voice to the point of un-health in live performances?

Second,

The performance becomes a show.  Add attractive multi-sensory entertainment.  Anything from a cool set to pyrotechnics is enough to distract people from noticing that they sound different live.  A show is still art.  It’s just a different art than the music that preceded it.

Last,

I hope that someone’s art is truly an expression of their soul.  Would you enjoy a painting that was made by a robot?  Why do we enjoy a recording pieced together by a computer and a producer?  A friend recently commented that he can’t stand the recorded music of a certain Christian Contemporary Artist, but loved this individual’s live show.  Can any of you relate to this in other genres?

Is this pressure on performers good for the industry?  Would you rather hear good music or be entertained by a fun show?  What would it take for you to be ok with only live recordings of everyone in your collection? Do you prefer the perfect sound of highly engineered perfection, or freshly squeezed human authenticity?