TED Conversations

Los Angeles Philharmonic


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With the advent of amazing online videos, why are we still so compelled to experience live performance (music, sports games, dance)?

A recent online debate held by the New York Times asked the question: "Did YouTube kill Performance Art?". Almost overwhelmingly, the gut reaction from the public was a resounding 'no' - that even with the plethora of online videos from independent uploaders all over the world on platforms like YouTube, and even recorded sports games, dance, and TED Talks, we are still so compelled to watch the 'real' thing live.
What is it about live performance that makes us keep coming back?


Closing Statement from Robert Gupta

Thank you all for the great comments - I think we all certainly agree that a live performance is far and beyond an 'online' experience, and while YouTube creates a platform for independent expression that can potentially reach the world, nothing can substitute the intimacy of a communal experience taking place within a concert hall, between audience and performer, the performers onstage, and perhaps most importantly, amongst the audience itself. I believe that live performance moves us at a level that goes deeper than words (watch Denis Dutton's talk above), and is a throwback to our most primitive expression - we performed and made music and danced for each other before we had spoken word - and we did all these things to communicate something that would compel us to DO something. The live performance brings back that energy and community around the work of art presented. An interesting point for future exploration might be the biochemistry that takes place in our bloodstream during a communal event like a live concert - does the 'empathy' hormone, oxytocin, shown to rise during bonding and sports games - does that also happen during a live performance? I've certainly found that when I perform for those who may have no background or interest in classical music - the homeless and mentally ill - the same energy takes over a basement on skid row as it does in Disney Hall.

Thank you again for your comments - I wish all of you were in our audiences here in LA! We need more listeners like you!

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    Sep 2 2011: Energy.

    Just as someone can walk into your office and immediately you know they are in a bad mood, we gravitate toward someone who is confident and charismatic; that positive energy is infectious.

    You can watch the masters of our day and age generally on public television and be moved by their performance, but being in a room full of people, all being affected by the performance is a collective shared experience that I think many of us aren't even consciously aware of at the time.

    The same goes for a sports game. I'm not a big fan of sports and don't generally watch it on tv or the internet, but invite me to a live game and I'm there. The tension that strings through fans, the explosion of joy when the favored team scores simply can't be replicated anywhere else.

    The inclusion of technology in our daily lives I think will continue to morph our society, but there are still fundamentals which won't easily change and certainly not within our lifetimes. We're social creatures and we need to be around each other and are often rewarded for doing so. The more neuroscience develops the better the question of "why" will be answered, but I'm content for the moment with a simple "because".
    • Sep 2 2011: well said, Alexis - energy is as infectious on stage as in the audience - but during an event like a classical music concert, where you might not 'get' the music and its context - and are in a way 'forced' to remain quiet, do you still feel the same way?
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        Sep 2 2011: Very much so, yes. It's still an energy. The tone and feel is just different.

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