ITP Notebook

Watching Live Sessions

September 11, 2020

Code of Music

I find musical inspiration by watching artists perform in live ‘session-style’ settings. These are most commonly for radio, but they can sometimes be stand-alone videos. KEXP is usually where I start since they have have a huge selection featuring many of my favorite artists.

Seeing how different acts perform in this intimate setting — especially those who rely heavily on electronic elements in their recorded music — helps me experiment in new ways. There is no real standard for performing electronic music, so I find myself turning to these kind of videos for pointers on how to create an engaging performance.

A lot of my excitement comes from simply understanding how a certain sound was created. The high quality video and audio lets me really hear what is happening musically because I can see it in detail as it happens — something I can’t usually do at a concert. It’s also illuminating to see which parts of a piece have been altered, or even omitted entirely, so that they work better in a live setting. Understanding these decisions makes the music less abstract, which helps seed the creative process in the short term (Oh, I could try making music like that) and serves as a high level motivation for the long term (this level of performance seems attainable).

What I love about this style of performance is that it’s not just about the music itself. I can see the musicians’ faces and hear them talk about their inspirations, processes, and challenges. Sometimes I have experienced some of the things they mention, like the joy of collecting samples or the difficulty in finishing a certain track, but more often than not I learn about a way of making music that I hadn’t considered, and it never ceases to amaze me how diverse these methods are.