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Sunday, March 11, 2007

When the Lights Go Out...


So there you are, relaxing in your seat, casually chatting with your friend, maybe checking your watch, a tense little knot of anticipation in your gut...and then, without warning, the lights go out...and adrenaline shoots through you as everyone in the crowd simultaneously erupts into deafening screams of joy. The first notes of the song soar out into the pitch black arena and the screams get even louder.

Ah...there's nothing like a rock concert...

You can feel the music, reverberating in your chest. The songs you loved so much on the CD are taken to another level, as you watch the band bring it to life, in their expression, in their playing, in their choice of stage design and lighting. The shared experience too, of being in a room full of thousands of people, all taking in the same sights and sounds, singing along with the choruses, makes it even more magical.

You go on a journey, with the musicians as tour guides, and then, as soon as it had begun, it's over and the house lights go on, blinding you back to reality. All you have left are the memories and a ticket stub.

I love going to concerts. After attending a concert this weekend, on the way home, I got to thinking about music; how it is a form of art that takes place in time. A painting or drawing occupies space and once it is finished, it doesn't change. Each viewer's perception or interpretation of it may be different, but the colors and shapes are locked in space. Music is something that takes place in time, and once the notes have been played, they are gone.

And each experience is a little different. For example, each time an orchestra plays Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik, even though the notes may not change, each performer brings their own musical skill, emotion and personality into the playing of their instrument, and the conductor puts his own touch on the arrangement. It's different each time. Or, in the case of a rock band, they also respond to the reaction and feedback from the crowd, which makes each show different as well.

My concert experience also made me think about how lacking recorded music can be, when compared to the shared crowd experience. Listening to a music CD can be very moving, but how much more magical is the experience of sitting around a camp fire, and someone brings out a guitar, and you and the whole group get to sing along with the songs, as the fire adds its crackling voice, clapping hands add the percussion, and the night sky is your backdrop.

From the time man could beat a drum or strum a string, he was using music to express joy or sorrow, using it to connect with others. I know I'm waxing poetic about all this, but you just can't deny that music is a very powerful thing. Want an example? Imagine watching the movie "Jaws" without the soundtrack. ;-) That big scary shark is suddenly just a toothy fish.

I love music (as evidenced by my ever-expanding and eclectic CD collection), but I love it even more when I can experience it live. Be it a rock concert in an arena, an acoustic performance in the park, a symphony in a concert hall, or my husband playing his guitar in our living room - I always feel a little bit more alive, a little bit more connected, after experiencing that musical, magical time.