I spent last weekend at the Wild Goose festival (as you know if you look at some other recent posts). As I understand it, nothing at the festival was recorded. Sure, there are photos floating around, and some people may have created audio and/or video recordings of small bits of what happened; but by and large, nothing was recorded. The conversations, the talks, the sacred space elements ~ none of it was recorded.
What might intrigue me the most is that none of the music was recorded. I heard a line on a radio show yesterday ~ I don't remember the topic of the conversation, only the phrase “unrecorded music” ~ which made me wonder, what is the value of unrecorded music?
There isn't a great deal of unrecorded music in our society these days. We go to concerts so that we can hear the songs that we like listening to on the radio. Or we go to concerts to hear something we haven't before, expecting that if we like the music, maybe we could buy a recording. Recording devices have become so small, cheap, and easy to use, that it seems like everything we ever do very well may end up recorded and published on you tube or facebook or someplace else. You never know, the band you're going to see tonight may well end up being the most important band of next year, who just haven't been discovered yet ~ doesn't it make sense to pull out your phone and record the show?
Some events, though, aren't nearly important enough to record. I attend a couple different bluegrass jams – you know, where people who may or may not know each other sit down together and play music. Usually some of the musicians are good, and usually some aren't. And most of the time, the group sits in a circle while the only people who are listening to the music are the ones in the circle. The music is only for those who are playing it. It's not worth anything to anyone else, and so it's not worth recording.
The thing is, though, that I believe the fact that it isn't worth anything to anyone other than those who are creating it makes it more valuable. Sure, we can experience and appreciate the experts whose music approaches near enough to the ideal that we save it for the sake of its beauty and ability to inspire. But creating music in the moment, especially when we're not recording what we're creating, allows us to sink ourselves deeply into the music as it happens, shedding pretense and any preoccupation with perfection.
This is why I'm glad Wild Goose wasn't recorded. Allowing the event to exist fully in that weekend makes our experience more valuable. That weekend is now fully contained and recorded in the memories and experience of those who were present ~ fully contained in human experience, child of G-d connecting with child of G-d, instead of being digitally diluted on a hard drive somewhere.
It is enough for us to have been fully present in that moment – in moments like that, we experience the fullness of the gift of life.