Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Keeping music Live

In this day and age with bands 'creating' music by sampling previously recorded tracks and lip synching to their tracks on stage, it is good to know that there is a revival in performers that can actually sing and play.

Once upon a time...

There were no computers, there was no way to record music and it was passed on to subsequent generations by word of mouth. Musical annotation came along together with the ability to read and write and thus music was able to be preserved. Two Centuries ago, Thomas Edison came along and, starting with his efforts, we are now able to record music to be played back at our convenience.

The dark ages

From the 1960s to the 1980s, rock and pop music started to take off and a multitiude of bands were formed, from the behemoths such as Queen, the Who and the Beatles to, latterly, Artists and Bands churned out by Promotors such as Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

A lot of these bands were successful, feeding on the enthusiasm of teenagers and pre-teens to leap on the latest craze. However, the traditional Artists - Folk, Country, R&B and so on were sidelined somewhat.

These new singers did not necessarily need to be able to sing, nor play an instrument. Electronic wizardry to tweak the voice and lay down the backing tracks coupled with fancy videos meant that all they had to do was bounce around on the Top of the Pops stage, lip synching to the music. If anyone's seen the Simpsons episode where Bart gets a Recording Contract will know exactly what I mean.

The revolutions

One pop group (you know who you are) provided the catalyst for change when they admitted that none of them could sing and that their records were recorded by other musicians. Up until then, Top of the Pops had allowed artists to mime on stage. Now it was decreed that they should sing live.

The second revolution came with classical music becoming more accessible. Singers such as Lesley Garrett started the ball rolling, then Charlotte Church and more recently Katherine Jenkins were amongst those showing that you could make it popular for all ages. Nigel Kennedy and Vanessa Mae have brought instruments to the fore with their youth and exuberance as well as visual impact.

Thirdly, Fok music, once seen as only suitable for blokes with beer guts, a pipe, a pint of something cloudy and his finger stuck in his ear singing a dirge about some early century tragedy has had a facelift. Fresh young blood has taken and shaken the Folk world. Kate Rusby, Tickled Pink, Kathryn Roberts and the Poozies have all gone down a storm. In addition, events such as WOMAD have youth appeal whilst festivals such as Towersey, Sidmouth, Wallingford and Broadstairs all have great family appeal. Kate Rusby, Katie Melua and Norah Jones are bridging the gap between Folk and Popular music, whilst the likes of Robbie Williams are also showing how it can be done.

In their own way, the Internet, IPods and downloadable music are bringing the world of music to our PCs and our ears. Cheap flights are bringing world musicians to our doorstep and our events.

The future.. looking good for Live music, certainly from the listener's point of view as there is so much choice. It is harder for new musicians to make it big - they are up against well-polished PR machines as well as the growing mass of talent out there. Musicians need to get their music accessible and played as widely as possible - creating your own sampler website, or using a portal such as Higher Notes is a good start. Hopefully, however, talent will shine through and those that can sing or play will win over those that cannot.

Get out there this summer and take in a bit of Live music. There is a huge choice of events. Check out our calendar for an event near you. If you 've not been to a gig for a few years, you're in for a pleasant surprise!

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