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Re: Expectations, artifice, and a hell of a can of worms

In response to the questiones mentioned below regarding audience
expectations and their willingness to be 'led by the nose' I'd like to
contribute a few thoughts based on my experience.
>Max Valentino spake:
>> >Believe it or not, most audiences
>> >DO want to be challenged, whether they are cognizent of this or not.
>and David Torn did quip:
>> i'm not so sure about that.
>> these days, it seems there's been a kinf of amplified resistance towards
>> 'challenge/surprise', in the ongoing musical balancing act 'twixt that 
>> of the equation & the other: that of 'fulfilling expectations'.
>I'm wondering if either Max or David (both of you, ideally) could expand
>on these respective points of view.  Because I'm curious as to any
>specific experiences you might have had which would have led to the
>formation of your current points of view.
My background:
        I am in a band/duo that plays a dark, ethereal type of music.  We 
vocals (Cheryl, the vocalist, uses a JamMan and samples parts of her
singing to sing countermelodies to them and also loops and layers them
inplaces) wire strung  harp and electric bass (all cheryl's domain) and I
do the VG8 guitars using JamMan and Echoplex.  The material consits of
songs and pieces, the presentation is gothy and artsy and is done primarily
in clubs.  We are also part of a masked theater group where we do similar
types of music combined with whatever other music works within the
parameters of the presentation (folksongs, rhythmic bits. etc.)
        In the club world I find that people who are not musicians don't 
care how you do what you do unless they're trying to talk to you after the
set.  Then they usually say they noticed they heard more music than they
thought we'd produce as just two people. But mostly, they seem to be trying
to say things they think we want to hear. It reminds me of what I used to
hear in the 80s.  At that point, PAs and house soundmen were the big
concern.  Everyone would comment on the house sound, thinking that was what
we wanted to hear them talk about.  Very few at that time said much about
the performance unless asked directly.  So, I'd rather focus on the
performance and getting the music across to people.
        Cheryl is really concerned with letting people know that what we 
do is all
live and that we don't have any prerecorded samples we activate.  She is
usally bummed out that she forgot to say that during the set and my
response is always. 'Good.  Lecturing the audience on what makes us
'different' makes us look like we think we're better than everyone else
rather than different. Please keep forgetting to do that'.  The audience
doesn't care to be told from the stage what they're getting.  It ruins the
appreciation of what they're actually getting which is the experience of
the music.  After the set, we can tell them whatever we want to, and if
they're really interested, they'll ask.  That's the time to let them know
it's all live, done with this or that device, etc. etc. etc.

        We have a small, but dedicated crowd for our material.  They've 
heard the
raps before and they listen for the most part when we play.  But they're
also there to have a good time, so they'll talk to each other and order
drinks and generally socialize.  I think this is important, as they're not
there to pay rapt attention to every note etc, nor are they there to learn
anything.  If they do either, good for them.  If they just have a good
time, good for them.
        The theater stuff is a little different, as the guy who heads up 
company (the master maskmaker) always does a talk/lecture/Q&A session after
the end of the performance.  Talking to some members of the audience days
later, I found that his approach, though interesting, makes a night out to
see a performance feel like attending a class.  Many of the peopple I know
who came to see the plays felt obliged to stay and be 'taught'.  They all
said they did learn things and it was interesting, but they all seemed to
feel it wasn't what they went for  and felt somewhat uncomfortable with.
Most said things like, "I enjoyed it, but my friends wouldn't want to stick
around for somehting like that, so I'd never bring them".  
        So, setting and expectation matter.  If the audience is able to 
see any
part of this as entertainment, they tend to focus on that aspect when they
discuss it later (at least with me). For the record, we both appreciate
that, and are not the 'hide in the shadows' type of performers.  We both
dress and act the part while onstage.  I can count the number of people on
one hand who said to me "I went to hear.....last night."  They almost all
say "I went to see...".  So my comments come from the school of thought
that you can d a lot to put the music across by your presence and awareness
of you as a performer does not necessarily inhibit the audiences ability to
'get it'.

>My thought on this (and I'm probably opening a hell of a can of worms 
>I honestly feel that too much importance is placed on the mechanics and
>craft of real-time looping by many of the musicians who use those tools.
        I wholehearted agree.  As musicians, we are enamoured of our craft 
and its
tools.  They don't call us gear heads and accuse of 'tech-talk' for no
reason.  We need to keep that element of who we are in proper perspective
(which varies from person to person and situation to situation).

>It's interesting to compare notes on our various experiences with the
>real-time loop thing, but ultimately I think any such discussion HAS to
>take into account the skill and the musicality of whoever (and whatever)
>is getting looped in the first place.  
        Again, I agree.  When we write, there are lots of cool loops we 
We don't use them all, as we have a vision for the band and its sound
(music from dreams and nightmares, if anyone cares) and looping is just one
approach to achieve it.  The wire strung harp is another.  Bass and
straight electric guitar is another choice.  The end product is the music
and it has to work on its own, not because of some aspect of the technology
that helped birth it.

>It's my feeling that, ultimately, the music in and of itself needs to
>have a certain fundamental strength to it, REGARDLESS of the presence or
>absence of clever or unusual methodology.  
        AMEN to that.

Frank Gerace