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David Lamkins picked up his first guitar a long time ago. As best he can recall the year was 1967: the year of the Summer of Love. Four decades later David has conjured up an amalgam of folk, rock and jazz solo guitar music for the occasional intimate Portland audience.
LCW on Bandcamp
location: Portland, OR USA

Facets: opinion, performance, respect, technique, @musings info

Technical perfection vs. the element of surprise

I've had many experiences where I simply don't get what the artist is trying to do. In some cases, I've compared myself to the artist - trying to understand the appeal of the performance despite the fact that I don't particularly respect some aspect of that performance. In other cases, I have marvelled at the technical perfection of the performance yet wondered why it left me wanting to go do something - anything - else.

I really don't have a problem with technical perfection. I don't think that a performer has to be technically lacking to make an emotional connection with the audience. On the contrary, an unskilled performer loses the audience precisely because he/she stumbles over poor "vocabulary".

My own preference is for music in which it's clear that the performer is "stretching". Yes, that usually implies a technically imperfect performance. There's something about a flawless performance that leaves me cold. Perhaps it's the feeling that I didn't witness a "unique" performance - that the next flawless recital of the same piece of music would be indistinguishable from the last.

I grew up in a family of classically-trained musicians and learned, among other things, that one pianist's rendition of a piece could be subtly different from another pianist's rendition. However, I also noticed that I could identify the player - sight unseen - by how they played a particular piece of music.

Later on (before my teenage years), I fell in love with rock 'n roll for its rebelliousness (long since co-opted and commercialized) and unpredictability (long since squeezed out of existence by the likes of Pro-Tools, Auto-Tune, heavy compression, and sequencers). I still get a thrill from noticing the differences between one performance and the next and from being able to identify a performer from the nuances of their phrasing, note choice, etc.

Ironically, I find myself seeking out music that has a higher level of technicality because simpler musical forms are too "safe". But I'm still looking for the same thing that I've always sought in music: I'm looking to be surprised.

August 20 2004 18:04:38 GMT