Love Letters To Maine | Emily Isaacson

Dear Live Music,

I’ve missed you! I have been filling your void with Spotify and the radio, but it’s just not the same. It’s like eating at McDonald’s when what I really want is Fore Street—it fills me up, but it doesn’t nourish me.

You see, you make me feel alive. With you, I am not just listening, I’m experiencing. If it’s a single musician, their sweat and furrowed brow remind me of the years of practice, dedication, and sacrifice that they bring to this moment. If it’s an ensemble, I am in awe that the unified focus and collective energy of 30, 50, 150 people are all for my ears.

For our ears, because, unlike watching YouTube, live music is a communal act. A room of 50 or maybe 5,000 people are entranced, simultaneously, so that you could hear a pin drop at Merrill Auditorium, or energized so synchronistically that the floor in the State Theatre shakes. And then there’s the moment when the music ends and you can’t hold back your enthusiasm any longer and burst into wild applause, and it turns out your neighbor feels the same way! The room is electric with hundreds of people on their feet.

You do that, live performance. I never clap to MP3s.

To be fair, you are very demanding. You require me to engage—not just to turn on and listen but to go somewhere, to make a choice, to commit to this moment. I can’t prepare dinner or check my email when I’m with you; you demand my attention—body, mind, and soul. It is exhausting, but so reinvigorating. And in this bubble of a moment that you created, I look around and see my community and realize that this is not my experience; this is our experience. We are dancing to Lake Street Dive at Thompson’s Point. We are applauding the Portland Symphony Orchestra at Eastern Prom. We are feeling the same powerful vibrations, and despite our anonymity, we will share a memory. And this reminds me that this experience is so specific, so totally here and now, and yet transcendent; that other people across the country, world, and even generations have heard these sounds and felt these emotions.

Live performance, I love you because you feed my soul by bringing us together and reminding us of the endless capacity found in the human spirit.

With gratitude,

Isaacson is the founder and artistic director of Classical Uprising, the performing arts organization that puts on the Portland Bach Experience.

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