The COVID-19 pandemic has forced music concerts to shift from the big stage to the small screen. Can an online music concert beat the sensation of watching a live music concert?
For many of us, 2020 and 2021 have been tough. We cannot deny that the COVID-19 pandemic that has lasted for almost two years has ravaged every line of our lives. Including enjoying music.
Previously, we could attend and enjoy live music performances easily. Suddenly we are forced to move from big stages to our small rooms at home, and then listen and enjoy music concerts on screen, either through Zoom or a YouTube channel, in order to protect us from COVID-19.
Watching concerts via streaming in our living room is fun and comfortable. However, we have to admit that there is something magical about watching a live concert that attracts a huge crowd.
When we attend a concert, we do not just enjoy the music being performed. We absorb not only the energy of the performing musicians but also that of the spectators around us, and this is what makes it an amazing experience.
Music is often interpreted as the conjoined twin of language. If words convey ideas or knowledge, music is there to convey emotions.
Based on this view, a musician presents his or her message, through music, to the audience. Viewers or listeners then decipher this message based on their music listening habits. This way the audience translates the emotions conveyed by the musicians through the music.
Then a question arises: if music can convey emotions, then watching an online concert should not be any different from going to a live music show, right? Because in both cases, the audience listens to the same melody, the same harmony and the same rhythm. So what is missing from watching a music concert on a computer screen?
The short answer is music is more than just a medium for conveying messages. When listened to by a crowd, music can create strong physical and emotional bonds. As social beings, we must recognize that interaction with fellow human beings is important. Without social interaction, we will feel miserable and lonely.
As the philosopher Alfred Schütz said, enjoying music creates a condition called “mutual-tuning-in”, where many people who gather in one concert venue create a common perception of the music.
On equal terms with Alfred Schütz, pianist and Harvard professor, Vijay Iyer describes a condition he calls “being together in time”. The essence of Iyer’s idea is to gather together in one concert venue to watch musicians on stage creates a sense of togetherness. And it accommodates the human need for social interaction.
In a live music performance, there is a kind of synchronization that occurs between one member of the audience and another, as well as between the audience and the musicians. This synchronization is the benchmark for when and how one has to sway to the rhythm, when to clap, and when to sing along. The same perception of music, the togetherness felt while watching a concert and the synchronization. The combination of all creates pleasure for the audience. Skin-to-skin contact when rocking, or even more extreme when moshing or crowd-surfing, is an irreplaceable feeling.
This is what we miss when watching a concert on our computer screen. Online concerts cannot provide the same pleasure that live music shows offer. Even though the music played has the same tone, the taste will be different because of the loss of human interaction.
After all, in Sanskrit, music is understood as Sangita. In this Sangita there are three important elements that are intertwined with each other: Musical instruments, singing and movement. A music lover can enjoy the piano playing and singing along in the living room of their house. However, there is one element missing: movement.
Imagine if Hammersonic was held during a pandemic and the audience could only enjoy it at home. It would be quite funny if everyone was doing some brutal dancing alone at home while Slipknot was pounding its metal music in a Zoom conference room.
After nearly two years of being battered by the pandemic, it seems that now the world is starting to clean up and improve itself. In some countries, especially the West, regulations regarding mandatory social distancing and self-quarantine have begun to loosen. So, music concerts have started to revive.
In the United States, for example, one of the biggest music festivals, Lollapalooza, has been held again, smaller-scale shows such as Broadway Musicals are now returning. One of the biggest rock bands, Foo Fighters also played on the big stage in New York with an audience of 15,000 people.
How about Indonesia? It seems that the policy of allowing concerts is still being reviewed. Even if we observe that for some time now several parties have held small concerts or gigs with limited audiences implementing health protocols. These gigs were held in a limited manner in a small venue with the number of spectators usually only 50 to 100 people.
For large-scale concerts such as Syncronize Fest, Hammersonic or Java Jazz, it seems that they will still have to wait for a while. Until that time comes, we have to be patient while enjoying musical performances at home. We must learn how to be satisfied and get pleasure watching concerts online.
The feeling of missing concerts is immense. However, the most important thing is the health and safety of everyone. So, until the time comes when COVID-19 is under control, let us endure and be patient a little longer.
One day we can vent our longing for singing and swaying with audiences in a music concert.
Notes: This op-ed previously featured on The Jakarta Post.