According to the Times, there were about two thousand empty seats when the Knicks played in Madison Square Garden on Monday night. I’m attributing their poor attendance to the great turnout we had in Elebash Hall for the first Sequenza21 concert. I hope all the other composers are as happy with their share of the box office take as I am.

I’ve noted this before, and I’ve been surprised that more people don’t agree with me: some pieces are more vivid in live performance, others work better on recording. I don’t see this as a positive or a negative either way, just as a fact. I always decide at the outset when a piece I am working on will be better served in one medium than the other.

I decided early on that Singing silver, with its mix of amplified and acoustic elements, would fare a bit better on recording than live, and composed it accordingly. Not to say it can’t be performed live – after all, I just performed it — but the intimacy of a recording will bring all of the details home in a way that is very difficult to match on stage. I’ve scheduled two more performances of the piece, but its ultimate destiny is on a set of speakers.

Why, if I’m planning to have a piece exist primarily through recording, do I schedule live performances? Because live performances give me the opportunity to reach a complete understanding of the piece, without which a recording is bound to sound a bit sterile. I wish I could explain it more clearly than that, but I don’t think I can, at least not yet.

Ironically, the pieces of mine that get the most live performances are often the ones that fare better on recording. Performers hear a recording of something that sounds fantastic and decide to program it, ending up a bit disappointed by the results on stage. Conversely, I have pieces that don’t get performed much even though they are really killer in a live performance, simply because people can’t fully grasp their impact through sample recordings. I’m having a harder and harder time finding people who will actually look at a score and make decisions about how a piece is going to sound. Everyone seems to want a recording, and nobody is giving enough attention to the disparity between the experience of listening to a recording and the experience of attending a concert.

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