Well today is Fete de la Musique in France and this is the one day of the year where towns and villages across the country put on a great deal of free music in their streets and bars. The whole country comes out in a big celebration of all things musical and a great time is had by all…needless to say it’s banging it down with rain here at the moment.This got me thinking about live music and where hifi fits into all this. Hi-fi aficionados often claim that they are looking to recreate that “live experience” and I wondered where this came from and what it was about the “live” experience they wanted to recreate. The majority of my experience of live rock and electronic music is being surrounded by drunken mid-twenty somethings combined with pretty average sound reproduction and hi-fi it certainly is not. If that’s the experience folk are looking for then surely it can’t be that difficult to recreate; a couple of cases of cheap lager, turn the music-centre up full whack, get too many friends around and there you go…for the festival experience take the whole lot out into the garden and roll around in the mud.

One of the most memorable hifi experiences I ever had was my first encounter with horn loudspeakers and a live recording of the Allman Brothers. The recording was made with just two microphones…a proper “live” recording.  The sound was difficult to describe, but the feeling of “being there” was palpable and immediate and a good deal of this was, I believe, down to the way the recording had been made.

When I listen to “The Great Reunion” by Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong I can close my eyes and “be there” (this is a great record by the way and a record collection without it is, in my opinion, incomplete.). It’s a simple recording, but this simple recording allows the atmosphere to ooze out of the speakers. Most modern music just isn’t recorded simply, or indeed live and a good deal of it isn’t even made with real instruments, so in what way can a hifi be expected to reproduce a “live” sound when replaying it.

When I listen to electronic or rock music I’m not listening to a “live” experience! What I’m listening to in the main is the effect that the engineer sat behind the mixing desk is hoping to achieve. Trying to recreate a live experience with this kind of music is just never going to happen…because most of it wasn’t recorded live!

I must confess my hifi never, or very rarely, has classical music played on it, but I do play quite a bit of traditional Breton and acoustic music which is recorded simply and live and I can often get the effect of “being there” when I listen to it on the hifi.

To my mind if you listen to anything but simply recorded, live music using acoustic instruments, trying to achieve a “live experience” is just never going to happen. What do you think?

Right, where’s the brolly and my Wellingtons I’ve got some music to go listen to.

Author – Stuart

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