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Howie Day – Ghost

In 2002, at a Penn State concert, Howie Day performed his song “Ghost”.  During the introduction to this performance, Howie starts improvising rhythms by banging his guitar to create multiple percussive effects.  His technical crew records his sounds and loops it.  The recorded sounds are then sampled and rearranged to create more loops that act as the background to his song.

The live looping causes the performance to be unique.  Every time he does this song in concert, a new experience is created, because the percussion will be original during every show both in sound creation and in order of loop.  The recorded version of this song lacks the percussive edge.  This looping allows the audience to have a fresh show during the performance, yet lets them hear something that they are comfortable with and can recognize.  As a marketing strategy, more variety in a concert allows for the same audience to go to another concert by that artist without having the same experience. 

Live improvisations are often based on the interaction between musician and audience.  The audience’s reactions, vibe and attentiveness set the scene and cue the musician, who may or may not be conscious of these factors, to go in a direction with the piece.  Improvisations and solos are therefore determined on the spot to fill the audience’s craving and are never reproduced in exactly the same way.

Recorded music is less authentic.  Since it is mass produced, any improvisations that are captured become regular to the song.  Every time that recording is played, the improvisation stays the same and can be recognized as a standard.  Recorded music lacks the emotional push and pull that surrounds live music.  Recordings are great for storing a generic version of something that is liked, but never has the grandiosity of impact found from a concert.  Although recordings are often mastered and cleaned up, the live show has a more human connotation. 

In the Howie Day example, there is a conflict between both recording and live performance as they overlap in loop.  This performance benefits through both being unique and standard at the same time.  The improvisation makes the song special, but also gives it solidarity.

Katie Kuzinevich

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