I am blessed but also cursed with an ear for detail. I still remember that time in the 80s when a overly amplified saxophone sent an excruciating message to my brain for days, even though my intellect appreciated both the performer and the original music being created.
Especially with singers, I (for better or worse) can hear all the little flatnesses and sharpnesses that occur, and that makes the vocal landcape slighly more painful to navigate – but I am still able to enjoy every minute of it.
The acoustical problems are in the forefront of my perception, and they plague many of the spaces, which actually are mostly churches lately (thank God for that), as there seems to be a scarcity of creative venues, where we can listen to live music: sound bouncing too much, or not bouncing at all, flat, muddy.
Amplification issues may happen: everything was perfectly planned for natural acoustics but the room required miking of the instruments, meanwhile the performers can’t hear themselves from one end of the stage to the other unless they wear headphones… Sometimes it’s a theater made for drama, not sound, and where no matter where you sit, you’re going to hear something totally different – and none of it in keeping with what it should sound like, but no one will really know because it’s a premiere; one person says the violin was too loud, the other says they couldn’t hear it at all, but they are both complaining.
I hear the slightest out-of-tuneness of a piano, even a mere out-of-temperament-ness of the instrument and the other instruments being ever so slightly at odds with it…
The distractions from audience vibrations and moods, the near-psychic perception of how people are feeling at the time in a collective situation also have their part in the aural experience, and so does the presence of Critics with a Capital C, whether old-school ones who enjoy career-bashing power or the impression of it and new-school ones who will casually but just as irresponsibly blog it negative for the sake of being perceived as witty.
The programs can often be under-rehearsed because performers are so busy making a living they can’t really afford the time to learn the music properly, and they certainly cannot be blamed for it.
In brief, so many things can go wrong with a performance, and I doubt that a single one of them will escape my noticing. However, it’s funny how some events can turn out to be so grand that one is able to get beyond the uncomfortable and mundane aspects of the experience, such as bad seating, and how some other events can be nearly painful in the very humbleness of their endangered form.
This is really somewhat of a nightmare, isn’t it?