TED Conversations

Los Angeles Philharmonic


This conversation is closed.

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!

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Sep 2 2011: There are several very powerful aspects of a live performance that are entirely lost without that experience. One which I find most meaningful to me is that the performance is not the only thing I am responding to. With a live performance there is also a live audience! How that audience reacts strongly influences our own experience. When we are holding our breath waiting for the next note, how much more special is it when hundreds of others are doing the same? We respond to each others laughter, sorrow, and joy.
    • Sep 2 2011: It's an interesting point, Richard - however, to play devil's advocate - I feel that in many classical music settings, the audience feels shuttered off from the experience, as if they are made to feel that they "must" be quiet - and that experience can lead to boredom. What brings energy to rock concerts and games is the atmosphere, the noise, the crowd - do you feel that same energy in a quiet concert hall?
      • Sep 2 2011: Have you ever heard Itzhak Perlman perform live? The energy in the concert hall was electric! Was everyone excited and involved? I don't feel shuttered off, rather I feel like the hushed silence is like the calm before a storm, or the eye of a hurricane. It is a sign of respect for the audience and the artist. Something that doesn't matter in a recording. You don't get to display your respect and appreciation for someone who you admire and respect.
      • thumb
        Sep 2 2011: I think the "institution" of the orchestra, as well as the performance halls themselves, often create a clear divide between musician and audience. There is a place (literal and figurative) for audience members and musicians, and this often cannot be breached.

        While I'll give Richard the point that the hush of an audience is certainly reverent, it is this attitude that has contributed to dividing "orchestral" music from "popular" music, when they used to be one in the same.
        • Sep 2 2011: I think that there should be a separation! Not all the time, certainly, and I do recognize that distance detracts from developing more intimate relationships between performer and audience. However I like the variety! Sometimes I want to go to a rock concert, other times to a baroque. I like having that choice, I like the different experiences.
        • Sep 2 2011: This is a great point, Daniel - we do, especially in classical music, create a dissociation between the performer and audience. From the very formal attire, the parking, the 'sit down, shut up, turn off your cell phone', and the ticket price itself, I could see that going to a concert hall can simply be a hassle at the very start - and only a devoted listener, or one open to experiencing the event with an open mind, would gladly go through the first steps. More over, classical music is the only genre of music that is totally not mobile - that you MUST come to a concert hall to "experience" our version of musical culture. I'm not sure, in this internet video age, if that is a sustainable way to continue reaching audiences.
      • Sep 2 2011: The rules at a classical concert are rather stilted. i would like the crowd to be able to applaud after a particularly inspired portion of a piece, or at the end of a movement.
        • Sep 2 2011: they certainly are - and these norms are an old remainder from the German concert-hall age, where you had to be totally quiet during a symphony performance. However, even in Mozart's time, the audience talked, ate, and caroused throughout the performance.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.