Performing in Modern Times: Signal & Noise

During his recent viewing of Wagner's Parsifal at the "Met in HD" movie broadcast, fellow Huffington Post blogger Eliot Dailey found the artist interview intermission features jarring.

Not everyone would agree, as some folks undoubtedly welcome that kind of contrast in a five-hour afternoon of opera. But his point is well-taken and is a cautionary tale.

We in the performing arts go to great lengths to create other worlds -- to lift viewers and listeners out of their space and time and to transform their lives, if only for a few hours. At the same time, we are increasingly obsessed with offering the audience a gateway into what some people feel is an intimidating subculture. Neither of these goals is wrong, but we cannot assume they co-exist elegantly.

We vacillate between "Stand in awe of this superhuman performer!" and "See? He's just like you!" We embrace the freneticism and white noise of our age with tweet seats and flash mobs. This is all good, as they say, until it overwhelms what we have to offer in the first place.

We have the ability to block out the white noise. To ground listeners and performers in a common moment. To place frivolous daily concerns in their proper perspective. We don't always succeed, but perhaps we shouldn't dilute our chances unnecessarily.

So let's go ahead and do the video interviews that show the artists as the boy-next-door and continue to reinforce the sense of community on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Instagram, Pinterest... (can you tell I'm drowning in the social media sea? S.O.S.). But as we do, let's remember that the musical or theatrical experience might want to have the chance to stand on its own legs. It may be one of the best tools we have for carving out our niche in this noisy world.