30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert


Photo by Illinois Springfield

Today’s idea is about sound. Specifically, acoustics and recorded music. Simply put, my idea is for people to turn up to a concert hall, sit down, and listen to a record.

There are a few ways you could approach this, but ideally, the listening experience would be curated and explained track by track by the person or people responsible for the recording – or the person who selected the collection of music, assuming that’s someone whose opinion you’d have cause to respect.

And then, after the concert, everyone would be handed a CD copy of the music they’ve just heard. Ideally, they’d be limited edition recordings with programme-like liner notes that you could only get if you went to the event.

This may not necessarily work for all music, but it does work for music that’s primarily designed to be listened to (as opposed to music that’s designed to be danced to in clubs, for instance), and those forms of music for which audio fidelity is an important consideration (though of course, I’m not just talking about classical or jazz music here).

Um… why?
There are a few things that have brought me to today’s idea.

First, I used to be a sound engineer, and there is nothing like hearing a great recording on amazing equipment in a superb listening environment. Of all the things I miss about being a sound engineer (and to be honest, there aren’t that many) it’s the jawdropping, breathtaking experience of an amazing piece of music represented on fantastic equipment in an ideal acoustic space.

Most people think they wouldn’t really notice the difference, and that music’s fine on the radio, on mp3 or on their home stereo. There’s nothing wrong with those things, and most of my listening is done in that way, but it really is the difference between YouTube and an IMAX screen. Trust me – the difference will knock you over.

Second, I’ve been going to a couple more classical concerts recently, and I’ve been struck by the acoustics and the clarity of sound that promotes the act of close listening, which is a completely different experience of music.

And third, I was blown away by a piece of music recently in a context that I’m not normally in. But because the person who made the music both explained the conditions for the creation of the music, and the care that had gone into the way it sounded, my attention was drawn to certain elements of that – and it changed my relationship to that piece of music.

Recorded Music as Experience rather than product
I really think there’s a missed opportunity, both culturally and commercially, when recordings of music are considered only as a product, and not given the kind of serious attention afforded other media (cinema, particularly).

I’m not meaning this in a snobbish way, and nor do I think this would be limited to acoustic forms. I think a lot of fun could be had releasing pop and rock music in this way. Imagine Radiohead did this. Or Death Cab for Cutie. Or Gorillaz. Or Meshuggah. I’d pay for that.

And I suspect that a lot of people would pay to come and have McCartney walk you through Sergeant Peppers; Joni Mitchell play a recording of Blue from start to finish and reflect upon its meanings; or the Blue Nile present the magnificent A Walk Across The Rooftops in a concert hall.

But the chance to hear an amazing record in what is traditionally a live ‘serious music’ context – especially when presented by someone you respect and admire – gives the occasion a real sense of… well, occasion.

Compilation and curation
But the other thing that got me thinking was the Meltdown Festival, in which a single artist selects a range of other artists to showcase, with fascinating results.

I’d love to see a similar thing happen but with a particular artist’s favourite recordings showcased, with the release of a compilation album as a result. Meltdown meets Back to Mine, if you like.

It could be held in interview format, or with the curator prefacing each recording with some information or personal anecdote.

But the point of the exercise is to sit down, pay attention, do nothing else other than listen to great recordings of great music on a great sound system in a great acoustic space.

As usual – the idea’s all yours to do what you want with it. Feel free to invite me to one if you decide to go ahead with it, won’t you?

Table of contents for 30 Days of Ideas

  1. The other way of following first
  2. Now we’re up and dancing
  3. 30 days of ideas – 01: Keymash
  4. 30 days of ideas – 02: Radio Alerts
  5. 30 days of ideas – 03: Only Famous (a romantic comedy)
  6. 30 days of ideas – 04: Modcasts
  7. 30 days of ideas – 05: Numberless Calendar
  8. 30 days of ideas – 06: SpringCleanr
  9. 30 days of ideas – 07: Street Gallery
  10. 30 days of ideas – 08: Smart Business Cards
  11. 30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert
  12. 30 days of ideas – 10: Vinyl scanner
  13. 30 days of ideas – 11: Photo Stack-and-Scan
  14. 30 days of ideas – 12: A Box of Cool
  15. 30 days of ideas – 13: Karaoke-Tube Celebstar Idol
  16. 30 days of ideas – 14: I Made You A Tape
  17. 30 days of ideas – 15: Newspaper download codes
  18. 30 days of ideas – 16: Pebble Splash
  19. 30 days of ideas – 17: Digital radio, somewhere useful
  20. 30 days of ideas – 18: Public domain music collection
  21. 30 days of ideas – 19: Blog cast-list automator
  22. 30 days of ideas – 20: The Retirement Pile
  23. 30 days of ideas – 21: Nationalise EMI
  24. 30 days of ideas – 22: The Stainless Steel Rat (the movie)
  25. 30 days of ideas – 23: WordPress Bandcampify template
  26. 30 days of ideas – 24: Rollercoasters as public transport
  27. 30 days of ideas – 25: Next-gen personalised music radio
  28. 30 days of ideas – 26: New Music Trust
  29. 30 days of ideas – 27: Tamagotchi Gardening
  30. 30 days of ideas – 28: Charity shop clothing subscription
  31. 30 days of ideas – 29: ‘Now Playing’ social music app
  32. 30 days of ideas – 30: House of Spare Ideas
  33. Mixtape for You by Ray Kuyvenhoven
  34. What can you do in 30 days?

13 Responses to “30 days of ideas – 09: Recordings in Concert”

  1. Dave Harte says:

    Like this idea. Every time I go to the cinema I think how I’d like to hear the music I own through their system. I recall going to see Lawrence of Arabia at the cinema which has about 10 mins of orchestral score before the curtains even open (some other 60s epics have the same). Full blast, light still up, everyone just listening – was great.

    Dave

  2. I would go!
    No reason it couldn’t take place as house concerts as well – formal listening parties with attendant .
    @dave cinema listening is currently underrated – if I remember correctly, wasn’t it credited with the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

  3. Mark says:

    I, too, really like this idea a lot. It wouldn’t cost the houses much, if they can coordinate with rehearsals. The one thing I see being a tad problematic (though not a deal-breaker), is that most classical recordings are already recorded in concert halls (between 3-5 seconds of reverb). Playing those recordings back in a similar space could make for a rather muddy listening experience?

  4. Anthony Hughes says:

    You can already listen to an original recording played back through huge sound systems in venues like the NEC – when you see artists like Cheryl Cole ‘Live’

  5. Great idea! People who love film go to the cinema to get the best experience, so why not music lovers? I think it makes sense even more with complex sample-based music (Amon Tobin springs to mind) that demands hifi sound to appreciate fully, yet will never really be “live”.

    I still don’t understand why cinemas and concert halls don’t make more of the social opportunities afterwards.. you have a crowd of people who share a passion, have just shared an experience.. why not add alcohol and see what happens? :)

  6. I’m digging on this idea. I could see myself going to a concert hall and listening to good music on a great system. If it is familiar music, attendees could write out the reasons why they love a piece or what it means to them ahead of time and send them in to the venue. Those comments/stories could then be scrolling across a screen during the show to keep people from talking or being bored.
    I think the participation aspect would be an excellent addition to this idea. I can’t imagine a hall that wouldn’t be up for something like this.

  7. It could be sponsored by a high-end hifi company. They could even build a system out of loads of hifi gear. About the best advert they could hope for, really :)

  8. I’ve been thinking of doing this for the past 15 years but became distracted with the internet and music stores… I’ve a fairly detailed plan on how to set this up as a standalone, bespoke venue/biz, The Listena, I just need to convince someone with a decent sum of £ to do it… In the meantime, I’m busy with Rough Trade stores. If anyone wants to join forces to make The Listena happen, feel free to get in touch.

  9. Might be good to “prototype” it as a regular event rather than a dedicated venue I guess? Hire a decent concert hall (like Symphony Hall in birmingham) and the best sound system in the area. It could always transfer to its own venue if it proved popular.

  10. Stephen Godfroy says:

    Yes, that’s certainly achievable but there have been lots of silent disco playbacks already (I think there was one at the Barbican a while back). I went to David Bowie event about 10 years ago that was a playback event in a cinema, the audience loved it. It works on all levels. I have to say, the bespoke venue isn’t particularly far fetched, it just needs someone with a bit of £ to share the vision – the opportunity is there. It will happen.

  11. Dubber says:

    When it does, can you let me know? I’d love to be there…

  12. Stephen Godfroy says:

    I’ll happily let you (and the rest of the world) know!!! Great website btw. If you’re ever near Rough Trade East, be sure to say hello. All the best.

  13. Jon Fletcher says:

    There are quite a few societies who do a similar thing, getting together to listen to recorded music (usually classical) but I like the idea of this- somewhere between that and a celebrity DJ set.

Leave a Reply