Live music versus sport

A caveat first – this note isn’t really saying music is better than sport – just different – each to their own and some get a buzz from both.

Interesting to reflect on the differences watching live music versus sport. For me live music means the concert hall or any other venue where the focus is listening rather than say active audience engagement with dancing, etc. For sport I’m thinking mostly about team competitions rather than those folk competing against the clock, etc – I can understand the setting of world records & personal bests. I’ve never really engaged emotionally with teams – could never be a supporter or in a sports fan club. Even some limited engagement with the national cricket side has waned over time – that might not all be my fault given the current state of the team. At the end of the day I don’t really care which team wins. Would never feel ‘gutted’.

This contrasts with my interest in music. Attending the concert hall you pitch up to watch one team, and the occasional soloist, in effect compete against itself. And strangely, the orchestra or band is actually playing the same game to script. Except for new works the much of the audience already knows the music, some is great detail. But the quality and intensity of performances varies greatly. The familiarity of the audience with the piece cuts both ways: the audience is usually ‘hooked on classics’ but a lacklustre performance can be a downer. The other day I sat through a popular piano concerto – the performance was fine, by a renowned performer, but it just didn’t overwhelm me – I actively hoped that there wouldn’t be an encore or ovation. The experienced audience senses this and the orchestra does as well – you can see that they know there won’t be one when they are chatting and half-way off the stage. Hearing a performance that really works, where the orchestra is on top of its’ game and the conductor is pumping them up, is awesome. This is hard to get a sense of from non-live recordings – the best way to see this is perhaps in jazz where you can hear multiple takes in different sessions.

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