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: As a performer, avid concert goer, and music scholar I have to say that the online video can be a great pedagogical tool as well as a form of entertainment, but it will never supplant the act of physically going to a live performance.

    This may be an odd comparison, but a few months ago my husband and I went to a live event of the UFC (mixed martial arts). We have been fans and watch the live event broadcast on pay-per view or cable tv. We are both musicians, so we know what it feels like to perform or see an event live, but had never gone to a live UFC event. Being physically at the arena, seeing two men try to out-wit each other, in the moment, was completely different from watching at the sports bar. The raw energy one feels from the other fans and the actual octagon is intoxicating, and it gives you a high that cannot be experience even if watching the event live over the tv.

    This raw energy that drive one to tears when seeing a Puccini opera, or two men beat the crap out of each other, that's what draws us to the live event.

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