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The Weekend Vote weekend vote: Do you prefer listening to audio or watching video with the audio

September 19, 2010 at 5:46 PM

I've been impressed this week with the way that the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis has allowed people from all over the world to listen to and watch the proceedings with both a live stream and immediately archived performances.

However -- with a Mac, I've had a difficult time accessing the video. As I listened to several performances without the video, I grew philosophical. Which is better? Do I hear more when I listen without watching, or does the video help?

One good thing that the video can do is to draw you in; that is, you are less likely to multi-task and do other things on your computer (or other things in general, like driving, or do the dishes), when you are watching video. Also, you can observe a person's technique, which is another interesting element.

On the other hand, the visuals of a performance can distract from the music and put attention on things like a performer's clothing, their technique etc. I'm not a particularly visual person, and so often I concentrate better on the music itself, with just the sound. Then again, maybe it's just because I grew up listening to audio more often; video has only recently become so extremely accessible.

What is your preference, when you are listening to a recorded performances? Are you helped by seeing the performer, or do you like to be able to listen to the music without the visuals?


From Jim Hastings
Posted on September 19, 2010 at 7:56 PM

For me, it depends on circumstances.  The first time through a performance, e.g., on YouTube, the video can be helpful, because it's about the nearest thing to being there in person -- and it helps me connect a bit with the performer.  But, generally, on subsequent run-throughs, I'd rather just hear the music, skip the video, and get other things done.

Josh Bell pulls off some winning renditions of the Tchaikovsky VC; yet I found Mayuko Kamio's performance at 21 y/o with the JPO easier to watch and listen to on repeated hearings.  I'm not denigrating JB, but his on-stage movements and his interpretation of this piece put me more on edge; whereas MK makes me feel more at home and recalls for me the feelings I had for the piece as a child when first hearing it.

Then, too, whether the performance is of a symphony, chamber work, or stage work -- this is another factor in video/audio versus audio alone.  Compare sometime these two YouTube performances of Lady Macbeth's Act I Scene and Cavatina from Verdi's Macbeth -- one by Birgit Nilsson on stage -- probably a television performance without live audience; the other by Mara Zampieri in a concert version with live audience.

Since this is a musical drama, the staged clip is more meaningful to me personally -- not to mention Nilsson's outfit and her steely, regal bearing; so, visually, her clip wins with me.

Although Zampieri has, to my ear, a slightly prettier sound in the lyrical first aria and is more nimble and pitch-accurate in the florid measures of the final stretta, still, now that I've tried both clips several times over several days -- video/audio together and audio alone -- Nilsson's has stood the test of time with me and has emerged as the winner for both video and audio presentation.  This lady, to me, is overall more convincing in the part.  Neither clip is without cuts, but Nilsson's is more nearly complete overall.

Subtitles would have been nice -- not sure how your Italian is.  But the story is quite well known anyway.  I studied this score on my own, start to finish, as a student; so I know what Lady M. is saying -- and about whom she is saying it.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on September 19, 2010 at 9:52 PM

 I'm finding that I get more out of videos now when I watch them for learning purposes.  It's fascinating to see how a great violinist approaches and performs a piece that I am learning to play.

But if I'm just listening I like to multitask.  I listen to a lot of music on my iPod while I'm riding the bus or subway.  Sometimes I follow along with the violin part, sometimes I just look out the window and let my thoughts wander and coalesce into whatever the music evokes.  But either way, I like it to be my own thoughts.  I don't really want them hijacked by watching something proscribed.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on September 19, 2010 at 11:49 PM

Like Karen, I learn a lot by watching how others as well as myself play. I can also get more emotionally involved with the music when watching players play with their body, especially in chamber performance. My husband on the other hand always closes his eyes during a concert to focus on the music.. But then to him, music is all about what's written rather than how it's been performed. We have a lot of interesting breakfast conversations on this topic.  

From Charles Yoh
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 12:00 AM

 Laurie I had the same problem with my Mac.  I found that if you opened an archived performance link and the copy the link into Quicktime you can watch the video.  You have to also download the plugin so Quicktime can read windows media files.  They have a link for that on the IVC website.

From Benjamin Eby
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 12:25 AM

 When I watch videos, I'm watching primarily the bow arm, and more specifically things like where they are in the bow for a particular stroke, how much bow sped are they using, etc.  I think of bowing as choreography, and like to see how a particular artist "dances" the phrases.  To me, this is the most fascinating aspect of technic 

From elise stanley
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 12:59 AM

perhaps we could have a both button?  Sometimes its one and sometimes the other.  Video is great for getting personality of the player(s), technique and some emotions but if I really want to listen deeply then I prefer just audio.

From Eugene Chan
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 2:49 AM

I want a "live" button. :-)

(Sorry, now I'm just showing off.)

From Anne Horvath
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 3:44 AM

I didn't see video of Heifetz until I was twenty, on a bootleg VHS.  Like many others, I can appreciate the easily accessible, inexpensive or cheap visuals available now.

I can get "lost" in a CD though.  It is similar to getting lost in a book.  Visuals can be more distracting, noting technique and mechanics.

But what marvelous distractions...

From bill kilpatrick
Posted on September 20, 2010 at 1:23 PM

i find the contortions, histrionics, etc. displayed by some players to be a real distraction - makes me wonder if they practice their moves in front of a mirror or are taught them at music school... JOLLY-GOOD-SHOW 101 ... TWITCHING - enroll now!

From Dion Ackermann
Posted on September 21, 2010 at 10:19 PM

If the video is of old men in long-tails I would rather listen to the audio. Watching YouTube is almost impossible for me because it stops every few seconds during the download. I will make special allowance for Vanessa Mae because she is easy on the eye. 

From Mark Roberts
Posted on September 22, 2010 at 3:48 PM

I like listening and following with the score

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