Is the Live Music Reference Correct?

I've gone to a bunch of live concerts in the last year. (Jazz, Classical, Theatrical) Most of these performances were well done from the performance perspective. Unfortunately, each time I get up to leave I have had the same thought. I wish I could have heard the performance on my stereo. Why? Well the performances here in the Denver area are never performed in premo accoustic locations, the performers are beginning to be close mic'd with cordless mics, and the sound you hear is through speakers that don't usually approach mid-fi in quality. Add that to the talking people and the too loud production for even jazz and classic performances you get a sonic performance that is easily eclipsed by a standard quality CD.
I've been to great performances in good accoustic spaces that are truely magical, but the run of the mill average performance is not worth the tickets...or the gas to drive to it.
keis: i agree, unhappily, that the great majority of classical and theatrical concerts in the denver area are ruined by poor acoustics. du has built some smaller venues that are wonderful, tho. and, we have some great sounding places for rock/jazz/folk and blues: red rocks, the fillmore, gothic, fiddler's green and swallow hill. HOB will open soon. now, if we could just arrange for a cross-country move of carnegie hall. -kelly
No. TAS exults live unamplified music instead of what we get from most live perfoemances, hard to find for the music I'd like to hear. The volume is always way too loud for me at most jazz and rock venues even though I listen at what I consider to be loud volume at home, usually in the 80-90 db range. I've taken my radio shack meter to some live amplified outdoor concerts, basically in the park type venues and recorded levels of close to 110 db in open air like twenty five feet away and these guys think it sounds good. I don't stay long. There is some merit to going home and listening to what you like on a quality system.
I have yet to find an experience that matches a live performance; caught Mark Knofler just last week and I'm still in awe. The reference for me? I wanna throw on "Love Over Gold" by Dire Straits, close my eyes, and feel like Mark's right there in my listening room, working his magic. If I have to pick between re-creating studio session or a live concert as a the ultmate goal, the over-mixed, over- miked studio stuff will get the thumbs down from me everytime (even the well done stuff doesn't capture the emotion and artistic value a live performance offers). Enjoy the music, Jeff
I agree Jeff. The overproduced pop music leaves me cold. But that over production can be both live and recorded. I was forced at almost gun point to go see RiverDance live. Now that was an over loud, over produced event. Pretty dancers however. Good jazz and classical events where everything is pure accoustically generated is getting harder and harder to find. Example the Preservation Jazz Hall concert at the Boulder Theater last month was a much smaller venu but still there was a mixing consol between my ears and some incredible musicians. The balance was way off. I purchased their CD set and not until I got home did I hear what the musicians wanted me to hear.
While bad stage managers and technicians can ruin a live performance (I still don't understand why they insist on micing the piano at a favorite (VERY small) venue of mine), I still would almost always rather the visceral experience of experiencing the music being made then I would even a very close reproduction. I think that part of the effect is similar to watching a comedy in the theater versus renting it and watching at home. Invariably, people laugh harder and longer when they're surrounded by other people experiencing the same thing. The emotional group dynamic of watching a live performance can never be encoded (even on vinyl). Then again, I'm still reeling from the Medeski, Martin, & Wood show I saw last Thursday.
The last live performance I went to had terrible acoustics and even worse sound production. I saw the Brazilian singer, now I can't remember her name but I have one of her CD's "Sol Negro", at Town Hall in NYC. I knew in advance that acoustics at Town Hall suck so I was prepared. But the sound system they used just made the concert almost unbearable.

Merkin Concert Hall also does the same thing. I saw an incredible concert conducted by John Zorn. He was not playing. He conducted his Masada series being played by a string quartet, no horns. Amazing. Our seat were off center about tenth row. We had this terrible speaker blaring into our faces from that perspective. Since the concert was far from sold out, we moved to second row center and were treated to the most amazing music direct from the source.

The last good concert I went to was at Carnegie Hall, the Tibet House fund raiser with Patti Smith, David Bowie, Emmy Lou Harris, others and some amazing acoustic performances by Tibetan monks and the offshoot of Nusrat Fatah Ali Khan. That concert was excellent. The production was great.

So, I agree that the venue and the production has a lot to do with the enjoyment of live music. Not every live performance is enjoyable even if the music is what you came for. I would like to attend more small venue, like jazz clubs, but the sets are too late for me, the cost is high, and the drink minimums add to the expense. When you add the factor that to your left and right people are probably talking louder than the music, I'd rather stay home and close my eyes and pretend.

I hope I didn't go on too long.
I have to post one more reply because of given this topic some thought. Everytime I do go to a live performance, I listen to the music for a few minutes through audiophile ears. I try to gauge the soundstage, imaging, bloom, etc, all the descriptive terms that we read about in the reviews. There is a huge difference between a live performance (that hasn't been killed by bad equipment) and the best systems that I've heard. I've had the pleasure to hear systems costing up to about 250K. A live performance is still much different.

I just figure that what I get at home I should enjoy. It's my music, my system, and I get to play what I want and have it sound the way it pleases me.

I do think that TAS has it right as far as evaluating equipment. Try to compare to live unamplified acoustic music.

Try aiming your musical outings towards smaller, more intimate venues. Maybe even seek out one or two venues where you enjoy the sound/ambience.

For me, live music isn't simply an aural experience. I certainly appreciate a good sounding stereo and good recordings, but both are only simulations. I'd much rather be in a club with 100 to 5,000 other people who are digging what's happening on stage. It's just more......real. I'll sacrifice a bit of fidelity or 'soundstage' for first-hand experience, rather than living vicariously though an expensive series of mechanical boxes.

Sure, every concert isn't transendental. But the great performances I've seen vastly overshadow the disappointments. I think music is art, not science. - Eldon
I think Eldon has a point. Music as art and entertainment. Audio as art and entertainment. A few examples:

1. A Schubert piano piece is played at a concert. That musical piece is art(as defined aesthetically by music critics/historians). However the performance is poor due to
bad playing or the room might be poor acoustically. The
piano piece is still art but the entertainment value is not very high.

2.A grunge group is playing at some hole in the wall. The
music is not particularly artful(again aesthetically valued), but everbody is dancing, having a great time. No art but very high marks for entertainment value.

3.A 1944 recording of Bruckner's 8th Symphony in Berlin by the Berlin Philharmonic with Furtgangler conducting. By musical standards very much art(the people that were there say this was one of the great performances of all time).
But with a great system like Confedboy's Avalons and kilowatt Boulder amps the 2db dynamic range and tape hiss
galore would make this probably a very painful experience,
not very entertaining indeed!! An not art by audio standards
4. A famous singer/pianist records some pop songs, the
recording has fabulous soundstage/imaging cues, clarity,
you name it, the recording has it. Is it musically, art,
as defined by aesthetics probably not. But by audio
standards it is both art and entertainment.

What's the point:Audio is an art form itself and does not necessarily need music as art to make it so. Harry Pearson
proves that point, his musical lists are almost entirely
void of music that I would consider as art, again as defined
by aesthetical values. However as Audio as art the recordings he chooses are very much art and therefore
audio becomes ipso facto art. Comments???
Warning very long post!!.

Schubertmaniac raises some very interesting points, particularly with respect to the Bruckner 8th. I apologize for the lengthy comments but there are some additional dimensions on why accuracy in reproduction is important, even if the listener is seeking a subjective experience from the music. For this post I am going to ignore the social aspects and concentrate on the internal psychological affects of the music.

First, the famous October 17, 1944 Furtwangler performance was with Vienna and not Berlin. It was recorded on state of the art Nazi electronics and the Magnetophon, the first magnetic tape recorder. I just measured the dynamic range on the recent Music and Arts transfer, and from the opening bars to the coda it is a respectable 35db. It is quite listenable on my dCS 972/Elgar, Sigtech, custom Melos monoblocks and Dunlavy SC-Vs. I also believe that it is the greatest performance of this work recorded and I own all of the 25 plus contenders.

The recording is good enough to cross the aesthetic threshold in the first sense (to paraphrase a recent Grammophone review on ”listening to Bruckner attentively with score in hand”). Listening to it is not painful. However, particularly for Bruckner this is not the only aesthetic possibility. In his book on the Bruckner 8th, Benjamin Korstvedt discusses how this piece in particular was viewed as having the ability to connect with the sublime or to continue the Grammophone’s quote “ or do you listen to Bruckner eyes half closed waiting for the Grail to descend”. The Furtwangler should have that impact, but here, for me, the sound quality does get in the way.

This feeling of being transported by music is not solely the realm of classical music but I don’t want to take the space to digress.

I’ve heard Solti with the CSO, Karajan with the BPO and Haitink with the VPO play the 8th live. The Solti performance was the most magnificent sounding performance that I have ever attended but the interpretation was so theatrical that Bruckner’s “sublime” connection was lost. Here, in a live performance I believe one kind aesthetic experience was sacrificed to create a live sonic spectacular. The fact that about 25% of the audience in the front were holding their ears during the coda did add to the distraction.

Live, Karajan’s 8th was a sublime experience with a sound comparable to Solti, though no where near as loud. In Haitink’s case, the fact that it was live and with the unique sound of the VPO in their own hall added to the experience even though the depth of the interpretation was no were near Karajan’s. Haitink’s recording of the 8th doesn’t transport me even though live he did. Karajan’s recording does, although at times even with this interpretation I am aware of what is missing due to electronic reproduction.

I believe it is very hard to tease out the relative contributions of the sound and the interpretation, particularly in late romantic music. Even the absolute best recordings on my system cannot capture the direct psychological impact of the sound of a live orchestra. The sound quality is part but is only part of the aesthetic. With a great interpretation, the better the recording faithfully captures the sound and especially the less noticeable the electronic artifacts are the better the over all experience is for me.

Recently, our regular group of listeners attended a live Bruckner performance with a “name” orchestra and conductor, here there was universal agreement that we should have rather stayed home and listened to a recording. The sound was better than a recording but the interpretation was so superficial and the playing so routine that it was an annoying experience.

I my collection I do have great performances with poor sound (far worse than the Furtwangler) and vacuous performances that sound magnificent and i will get enjoyment from both. However, the major reason for me to pursue this hobby is to be able to create an experience at home where great sound and a great interpretation come together for a transporting experience. If this didn't happen I would content my self with a mid-fi system and live concerts.

There is art and aesthetics contained in the technology of high end audio that is missing from mid-fi. It is hard to directly perceive this but I think the only reliable way is by comparing it to superb acoustic performances.

One last note, for those of you who are interested in musical aesthetics I highly recommend Carl Dahlhaus’s book Aesthetics of Music.
Sorry, but I was really thinking about the 1942 performance
of Bruckner's 5th Symphony by the Berlin Philharmonic with
Furtwangler conducting.(Music and Arts)

Music is much more important to me than audio though
having a good audio system is nice to have. I enjoy listening to my music just as much on my cheezy car stereo
as my home audio system because both are suspension of
disbelief, my car stereo is just more suspension!!! Live is
live no matter how great/lousy the performance/acoustics.
I don't own the 1942 5th but I do own the 1942 Beethoven's 9th (which is a very intense performance) I was recorded on the same equipment and has a little greater than 30 db dynamic range.