Yesterday's post on the Golden Age of Recordings sparked a fair number of emails and one them asked me "what is live"? Is it sticking your head into the piano? After all, that's live if you were so inclined. Another complained of too much detail being focused on by Audiophiles "Wowâ€¦did you hear that pin dropâ€¦..you can hear that seagull fart at 32 seconds into the track". They are all great questions.
I think some of this has to do with expectations. When I listen to a modern Audiophile oriented recording like a Patricia Barber, my expectations are for a close mic experience: big sound, powering the room imaging, bigger than life - as if I were sitting a few feet from the band and if I wanted to really experience the power of the musicians. She never sounds live and my guess is she's not trying to. Yet, I probably have every Patricia Barber ever released because that's the experience I am looking for when the mood strikes.
Years ago I used to get the same experience from the Sheffield Direct-to-Disc recordings of Lincoln Mayorga - which were in fact recorded live in the studio and when I say "live" there's not much more "live" than a direct-to-disc. It just doesn't SOUND live - but they were exciting, dynamic and impressive.
I don't want to lead anyone astray with my own personal preferences of older recordings that capture both the hall and the orchestra or performer - because they are in fact my own preferences, shared by some, not by all. But those characteristics of live have become ever more important to me personally and are a big help in evaluating equipment and just enjoying the system.
In the end I think we all have our expectations of what something SHOULD sound like and we strive to gather as many recordings that suit those needs as we can - certainly that's true in my case.