Music has come a long way from its origins where it was only capable of being experienced through a “live” performance to what it is now — easily accessible and for the most part, unavoidable due to the developments of mass media in the twentieth century. This has made it appear as a regular commodity rather than something valued which only seems to reduce its worth. While it is clear that the ways in which music is being heard, listened to and engaged with has changed drastically over the past two centuries, it is crucial that we ascertain how its value would also shift alongside it. As a result of these fundamental changes, how does it affect the listening habits of the millions of users worldwide?
Katz illustrates that with these differences, users are allowed greater access to a wider, unending repertoire and an increased flexibility in how music is being listened to. Furthermore, there may be a change in the consumption of physical formats (CDs), a reconsidered concept about musical authenticity and a new formation of virtual communities that revolve around mutual musical interests. Consequently, due to the evolution of music consumption, “the nature of musical experience and value have arguably become even more pronounced”, which questions the relevance of performance spaces in the future. With accessibility being at the forefront of music consumption today, would people still be willing to attend performances when they could have a comparable experience from the comfort of their own home?
O’hara and Brown have demonstrated that music has always played a significant part of our everyday lives, playing a key role in several of its environmental and social aspects. The way music is currently being consumed does not only revolve around listening, but rather, has become “integrated into our personal and social lives”, more so with the many technological evolvements through which we experience it. Before, people had to attend live performances to listen to music, an experience they treasured better as these performances took place only when the appropriate situation called for them. In 18th century Vienna, for example, music was mostly reserved for the aristocrats who were able to afford to host private concerts while public concerts were only being presented on occasion. This exclusive and “in-the-moment” manner of consuming music is a huge juxtaposition from what we now experience in the modern day where there are countless ways one can consume music instantly.
North and Hargreaves discussed that the value of music in our everyday lives is dependent on the ways we make of it and how we engage with it, both successively based on the contexts in which it is being heard. This underlines the earlier example whereby music consumption has transformed from one that is situational to one that is easily accessible, the former being treasured better whereas the latter is often taken for granted which questions how the value of music has changed over time. While it is important to state how the evolution of music consumption has changed the practice of live performance, we ought to consider the aspects that still manage to draw individuals to a live performance in spite of the accessibility presented by technology today. Despite its imperceptibility, music has the “ability to represent and inform the nature of space and place”, hence exerting influence on the way we occupy and engage with its spaces. This is reflected in various instances that include but are not limited to: defining human behaviour and establishing an ambience in specific settings, bringing out responses from an audience and even reinforcing social roles or identities.
While music may not always define the spaces in which we occupy, with our technological advancements today, its presence can often be intended for a specific use, be it socially or psychologically. The spaces we inhabit may, too, may have an influence on music in how it is created, being performed or experienced. From a psychological point of view, the notion that social customs and human behaviour can be shaped by one’s surroundings is far from a novel concept. As a result of an environment’s social and physical attributes, it has the ability to subconsciously influence one’s behaviour through said environment’s assumed code of behaviour. On the users’ end, there is the need to uphold the social expectations of the environment being occupied, suggesting the significance of space in relation to a musical performance.
All in all, these social customs and behavioural aspects that stem from a performance contribute to an overall ambience we call the “live experience” that cannot be emulated through technology as a performance has a lot more to it than just a musician getting onto a public platform to offer a well-rehearsed interpretation of a piece. “The performer and the audience are continually exchanging information through visual and aural cues” which leads to an interchangeable method of communication that contributes to the ambience of the space that is unable to be mimicked through a screen. However, with all the advancements today, these atmospheres can be emulated through means of technology with acoustic technology but at what cost? While the aural aspects may be on par, would the same bout of behaviour and emotions be brought about given how the physical aspects of the classical church play a part in these behaviours?
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