Sunday, July 08, 2007


This weekend I caught a few shows in New York that have led to reflection on the role of the artist performing live when seemingly every ounce of captured media is at their disposal.

Crane Kick Drum, or If You Like Spoon, Turn Around

Friday night I saw Fujiya & Miyagi, a UK trio that blends live guitar and bass with sampled beats to produce pop melodies that are eminently danceable and that recall krautrock. Early in the show a friend I was with pointed out that I was standing directly in front of Spoon lead singer Britt Daniel, who appeared to be enjoying the music.

Books on Tape

Last night I caught The Books at the Bowery Ballroom. They masterfully added live vocal, guitar, and cello lines to “found” sound and video to produce a full immersion media experience. The underlying media tracks, both audio and visual, were brilliantly edited to combine with the live tracks. In one piece, the video was edited so that each frame was the length of an eighth note, rendering the video a percussive element of the piece.

What does that mean?

Both shows featured “live” music, but each act relied heavily on the manipulation of captured media. The artist has always been a conduit, using an instrument to pull and organize notes from a prior existing plane of sound. Captured media seems to have formed its own plane, defined not only by physics as vibrations but also the ability to capture and digitize anything observable, that the artist can structure into art.

It was interesting to note what elements of their pieces the bands performed live and what they used in a pre-recorded form, which leads to a more general question about the relationship between the artist and his source materials: With the digitization of everything, does the artist exist even further above the plane-like digital tapestry from which he can pull in making art, or is the artist being pulled into the tapestry itself, blurring the distinction between artist and source?

Dance to the full posting!