Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I was going to give my thoughts on the new fleet foxes album here, but the computer i listen to cd's on died when i went to listen to it...

maybe its just too much awesomeness to handle?

while the computer is back up, i havent had time to listen to the album yet, so ive decided to write about a concert C and I went to last week.

last wednesday evening one of my favorite bands was scheduled to be in town at the great american music hall. ive been amazed at the writing ability of their lead singer, for quite a while now and when i heard they were in town, i knew we had to go.

i have to say up front that the lyrics in their music are what really draw me into the band. their best work expresses heart-brokenness over the state of modern society and it is conveyed beautifully.

While the lyrics and songs in and of themselves were all perfectly performed and displayed, there was something that felt lacking that night. each of the songs were incredible as separate pieces, but as parts of a whole, there was a lack of continuity. between each song the band talked amongst themselves, deciding apparently, which song and/or instrument they should play next. this proved to be a little distracting and disconcerting. while there is a strong theme that runs through their work, breaking up between the songs and not interacting with the audience did not make it stronger.

this lack of a "show" or "performance" made something very clear to me. i have thought for a long time that the lyrics and beauty of a song lie in themselves. in other words, a song is beautiful because it is well written.  i was taught this particular evening however,  that in a live setting, there is an essential part of the musicians job that cannot be ignored if the songs are to carry their full portion of beauty. the whole performance must be executed well if each of the individual songs are to be given their full import. songs lacked power because they were not part of a larger whole "performance". like reading a sentence out of context from the rest of the paragraph and missing the larger point, songs performed live cannot be taken by themselves apart from a good show.

the performance is the context, and each song is a sentence in the larger paragraph of meaning that runs through an artists work.

this has been a hard lesson to learn and work through. ive often left my songs hanging out of context with poor performance. i dont think the band failed at all that evening, in fact, they are amazing musicians with great gifts and talents and each song was perfectly executed. i think they missed a chance to really speak with their audience about heartbreak though, and that was a a sad loss. this band is incredible and is bursting with meaning and lyrical depth. i hope i get another chance to see them perform live.

i wonder how this "context" issue can be applied to myself or you?

do you think performance is as important as writing or intent?



  1. Performances are best performed when they have a source. I think any song is best performed when the performer has a framework from which that source comes. Some use the original intent (Bach Minuets are quaint dances) while others use their own stories to create a well of originality. Do you use dynamics to tell describe the source? Words? Melody? Personal sorrow? etc. Good words, Jacob!

  2. Context matters. It's not separate from meaning, it's integral to the creative process. Some might say it adds to the audience's experience, but I'm more of the thinking that not sharing/including them detracts from the audience's enjoyment. Six of one, half a dozen of the other? Maybe. But I think the artist owes it to others to share the complete idea(s), allowing for a little editing and arranging.

    If you (not you specifically, Jacob), aren't willing to do that, get off the stage. Put your music online, sell CDs or whatever, instead. When the listener controls the music, they can do as they please, listening in the original order, on 'shuffle' or according to their own playlist.

    Stage performances should be reserved for artists who are willing to go the entire distance with their audience. That's why they are there and not at home listening to you with headphones on.