I went to Zoe Keating‘s show at the Old Town School of Folk Music last night. She is a charming performer, for one thing; for another, I find the cello such an evocative beautiful instrument. It was a wonderful show. I’ve not been to the OTSFM theatre before and it’s lovely.
Keating performs alone on her cello–sampling, looping and mixing it live. It’s Keating, her cello, a couple looping pedals and her little table computer. But when I got home, I realized something interesting: at no point during the performance did I think “wow, that technology is amazing.” The technology is so pervasive and second-nature now that if the music were not really good, I would not be impressed or engaged, unlike 30 years ago when the mere fact that it was happening at all would have been enough to draw me in.
Laurie Anderson, for instance, is an amazing technology musician. I saw her perform in the early 90’s and the while the songs and stories in and of themselves would have drawn me in and kept me engaged, it was impossible in the 90’s not to find yourself noticing and considering how is she doing that live and in front of us? There was a sense of magic show to music that could not be made without serious technology being performed live back then which is gone.
I don’t miss it, honestly.
Although Keating’s performance on Sunday was sadly short, I am very glad I made it to the show. Her music is incredibly rich and emotional; the performer is engaging; and now, the necessary computers, gadgets and futuristic woo necessary to complete that sort of layered, looped, sampled music no longer even registers in live performance, so you can just listen and be moved.
Wow, the future. So much of the world is still frustrating and relentlessly backward, but some of what we’ve managed to do with ourselves is amazing.