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: what i find most interesting is that the phenomenon of live performance can also be therapeutic to audiences that do not have access to it, or even to YouTube - the same energy that exists in a concert hall also exists when I play for audiences on skid row that suffer from homelessness and mental illness. To actively bring the music to audiences outside the venue reshapes the message of the music itself, and emphasizes the unifying force of a live performance.
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      Sep 2 2011: This also illustrates the point that "the medium is the message." The place that music is made in can have as much of an impact on the audience as the music itself. I hope that musicians continue to explore how space impacts their performance, and how they can change so much simply by taking their instrument somewhere else.
      • Sep 2 2011: do also remember that all TED talks are performances - Sarah Kay's talk above is a mixture of amazing performance art through spoken word, alongside her stunning talk. Bobby McFerrin says more through dancing through musical notes than any of the other neuroscientists on that panel...

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