Last Sunday, I attended the second day of Boston Calling, a two-day outdoor music festival in Boston's City Hall Plaza. I was there to hear Of Monsters and Men, and I wasn't disappointed. (I had first heard them play live on PRI's Q during the winter. It was really good hear how much they had improved over the course of their spring tour. It was a really, really great concert. What a fun band!)
Driving home from the festival, I started to think, of course, about music and memorization. Imagine if the musicians for this rock festival played with music stands in front of them! Fans of rock and pop expect their musicians to play from memory. Granted, these groups aren't playing Bach preludes and fugues, they are playing music that they wrote, and a lot of this music has only a handful of chords and little melodic complexity. But, while it might not hurt their current fan base if they started playing from score, wouldn't playing from music on stage impede the acquisition of new fans--especially if other rock groups are playing from memory?
Think about it, classical musicians. We don't have audiences screaming for our music, and we've been fighting a tide of pop culture for a very long time. We need to do everything we can to bring in and retain our audiences. While memorization is only a piece of the puzzle, I can't imagine that audiences--especially new audiences--want to watch us read music when they've taken the time and money to sit down and quietly listen to us. We owe it to our audiences and this repertoire that we love to give our best, and this includes working ten times harder to play this music convincingly without a score.
Here's a nice song for your Friday: