What makes some of the best speeches or presentations so memorable is not that they are perfect or slick, or overly polished, but that they are human. And to be human is to be imperfect. This is why so many of us are attracted to live musical performances. Studio recordings are fine, but there is a visceral human element that one gets from a live performnce. I loved what Dave Grohl said about this in his 2012 Grammy speech:
"...the human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do... It's not about being perfect, it's not about sounding absolutely correct, it's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head]."
Of course you prepare well and practice. You have a plan. But when it's live things will change as you adapt to the dynamics of the moment and the unique audience before you. As Charlie Parker once said:
“Master your instrument, Master the music, and then forget
all that bullshit and just play.” — Charlie Parker
Going analog on stage and the art of storytelling
All this week I am in Wellington, New Zealnd so I am reminded of a couple of musicians from Wellington, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, otherwise known as the Grammy-winning duo Flight of the Conchords. Flight of the Conchords bill themselves as "Formerly New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo a-capella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo." In the clips below what stands out is their naturalness, their self-deprecating nature, their body language, and their ability to simply and without complication engage with their audience as they paint pictures with their lyrics and subtle humor and use their guitars and wit to make visceral connections.
A story about a simple conversation
People are attracted to story. Watch Jemaine and Bret below keep an audience engaged and following their words even when it's a story "about nothing" at all really.
Business Time was made into a slicker music video, but this simple analog version below is better. The facial expressions are priceless and go along way toward amplifying the message. It's also a good example of why sometimes visuals are not needed — going completely naked sans slides forces you to use just your words, your nonverbal language, and in this case the music. In a sense, then, *they* are the visuals.
Talkin' about the issues
OK, this one below is a bit weird and perhaps not "politically correct" for some, but if you liked the first two clips you may find this song enjoyable as well. The absurdity of the lyrics are an evocative juxtaposition to the light, upbeat pop riff underlying their words. I just love the simplicity and subtlety of their off-beat and slightly awkward humor and I envy their ability to connect with a live audience.