I go through phases with my music listening habits. There will be a week where I listen to strictly jazz, followed by reggae, which could then be followed by a week filled with nothing but 80’s hair bands. After binge-listening to a specific genre, it could be another six months until I even feel the need to listen to that type of music again, the feelings just come and go. I’m also the type of person that listens to a song for 30 seconds and changes it; I’m in constant need of change.
However, there is one genre of music that I will always go back to, rap. I first started listening to rap in my mid-teens, and have stayed tuned in ever since.
A line from Walter Benjamin’s article, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” really stuck out to me. The article says, “Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be.”
I think the quote fits right in with the music industry. You can listen to the same song over and over again and have the same experience, because it’s not unique. It’s the same song every time you hit play on your iPhone. But when you get to see the artist live in concert, it's a whole different ball game.
When I read that quote, I immediately thought of my experience seeing Wiz Khalifa in concert a few years back. Wiz isn’t necessarily one of my favorite artists, but he has enough songs that I know by heart that I figured I should see him perform at least once in my life. He performed most of his hits, but it was when he performed “Black and Yellow” that I became enthralled. He did it differently than I had ever heard it before; it sounded so different, and I loved it so much more than the original recording. I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, this just means that I haven't been able to listen to “Black and Yellow” since then without thinking about how superior the live rendition was.
For this reason, I try to take in live performances as much as I can afford to. Plays, musicals, and even stand-up comedy are all things that you can consume via reproduction on a soundtrack or through a live stream. But seeing it in person is a “unique experience.”
Mechanical reproduction might take a lot of original art away from us, but what is left is something that everyone should experience.
This leads me to the following questions:
What are some of your favorite live performances you’ve been able to experience?
How did they mold your perception of the craft?What are some of the biggest flaws mechanical reproduction?