February 16, 2009 at 8:37 pm (Music) (, , )

I am a great fan of live performances when I can get around to them or have the money. Usually things are very dependent on artists I actually like being in the area. While surfing the internet, I stumbled across some criticism of 16 Horsepower’s/Woven Hand’s David Eugene Edwards. People claimed he was too introverted and never interacted with the crowd.

As a performer myself, this makes me curious. I interact with people when I sing. This comes from doing a lot of school performances which encouraged people to participate. My greatest achievement so far has been making around 200 students in the 16-19 age range sing “Shalom Aleichem” at an end of the year concert. I consider this fantastic because I know I was WAY too cool at that age to sing along with people, especially not if I had friends there who were watching and ready to mock me.

Does performing automatically require interaction with the audience? I’m not so sure. Some people are very wrapped up in their music or only doing it for the music, not the fans. Crowds are intimidating. I know this. Not everyone is an extrovert – I can be, when I am in a situation where I am in control and I feel comfortable. It took me a long time to coax some range of hand gesture and facial expression out of myself when I sang for an audience. I have a hard time making eye contact one-on-one because I have a lazy eye that I hate calling attention to. If it weren’t expected of singers to at least pretend to be interesting in those watching, I would probably remain as static as possible.

If you are getting paid, does this mean you have to force yourself to be someone you aren’t? David Eugene Edwards, for example, happens to be a very talented man. I do not get the impression he is in the business for money. I truly believe he does it because it gives him joy to present music he loves – he just doesn’t like actually looking at people. Musicians are not, as a matter of fact, entertainers – music does not imply this in the least. I have a feeling that, with the onset of the 19th century and the decline of focused, intense voice training, the business became more about entertainment than actual skill level. Television and the internet certainly encourage figures in pop culture to exert themselves; especially women are expected to perform complicated dance routines while singing (live, of course – because why on Earth would ANYONE sing playback if they’re doing just as much work as their back-up dancers?). There’s a certain pre-made mold musicians should fit into, otherwise they are not commercially viable.

As a member of the audience, I guess I can see how it would be frustrating to watch someone as they plucked at their banjo and never looked up. My favorite concerts have been the high-energy, super-intense concerts with Saltatio Mortis where a bunch of loons in Goth-medieval bard costumes jump around on stage with bagpipes, guitars and drums. I’ve had absolutely lovely conversations with Liv Kristine, who is a very social and sweet lady. (Check her out, people: Leaves’ Eyes and Liv Kristine) I laughed a good deal when Sasha loudly contemplated urine therapy. However, I do not require an artist to entertain me. I shouldn’t. Their music is their business, and if I happen to like it, that’s great. Nobody should interfere with someone’s style of presentation, not to mention their music genre. It’s fine if some run-of-the-mill pop princess wants to hop around half-naked, but does anyone REALLY want David Eugene Edwards to look up and crack a joke, thus totally killing the mood, while he presents his material, all of which has a very dark and moody quality?

I sure as hell don’t. Is that my common sense speaking?



  1. Meg said,

    I know that I do my music primarily for myself, but I enjoy sharing it with people. I interact with the audience because I understand that they are there hoping I will share what I can do with them. I always hope for the same in performers that I pay to see.

  2. Raspberry Swirl said,

    I occasionally get annoyed when performers interact with the crowd too much. It’s like, shut up and sing. But I can understand wanting at least a little acknowledgment.

  3. Nate D. said,

    It seems to me that it comes down to American culture’s lack of faith and trust in the artist. There are places in the world where you order food, and the chef, the artist, provides you with whatever he or she’s been making, feels like making, as a point of expression. We have this concept of ‘choice’ that spills out onto everything. We have this concept of…I pay for service, service is rendered. Ultimately, I think it’s a bullshit concept, at least as regards art. I had an argument with a friend the other day, specifically about Bob Dylan, who does not like public attention of himself. My friend argued that if somebody is going to make the decision to release their music on such a scale, they shouldn’t complain about whatever treatment they get back from it. As stated, that’s bullshit; it seems too similar to the concept of, “Now that I’ve treated you well once, I can treat you however you want.” And that’s just rude.

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