In a recent post on the Guardian Music Blog, Pete Paphides talks about the magic of the anticipation of listening to music and the pleasure felt from an experience that you dedicate time to – the hours spent browsing in the record shop, the carrier bag on the bus home, the way your purchase looks and feels and even the way it smells – the expectation of what you'll soon be listening to.
How we listen to music now and how this has changed was the starting point for Be Here Now, the new show from TOOT – being performed as a series of work-in-progress double bills in October at Ovalhouse. Be Here Now celebrates the thrill of anticipation and ‘music you can hold'. The performance invites audiences to consider how we chart our lives through music; from building a record collection, to creating an identity and a soundtrack that defines us.
In Be Here Now, TOOT are remembering the 90's – the last real heyday of CDs and ‘physical' music formats – revisiting first loves, learning the words from the inlay card, youthful dreams and fantasies. TOOT want to take audiences back to their teenage bedroom, laying amid the jewel cases, surrounded by posters, a half-written love letter by their side... waiting for it all to happen.
TOOT's collective experience of listening to music growing up in the 90's is in stark contrast to that of many teenagers in 2013 - instant gratification, music on demand and the ability to try before you buy. It could be said that the digital age has taken away the aura of music, the magic of that first listen and the value placed upon it. Music fans are less likely to take a risk on something new, without first watching a clip on YouTube or streaming an album for free before it's release date. That all-important sense of anticipation feels watered down. It is fantastic that we can access so much, but in doing so, are we missing out on an important part of the experience?
The on-demand nature of music has not quite found a home in the world of theatre and performance, but it does appear that audiences are less willing to take a risk on something new, whether that be a piece of work or an artist they haven't yet heard of. Theatre can offer that thrill of anticipation; of buying a ticket, waiting and then watching a performance, the impact of which might stay with the audience for days, weeks, months or years to come. Yes, we might be able to watch a full theatre production online shot from multiple angles, or virtually wander round a gallery with a world class art collection (and don't get me wrong, making art more accessible can only be a good thing), but to feel the magic, the buzz before the curtain goes up, not knowing if what you're about to see will change your life (for the better or worse) is something we should treasure.
Formats like Ovalhouse's You Might Also Like… seed commissions or the Lyric Hammersmith's Secret Theatre (plus numerous others) encourage audiences to take risks, see something different or challenging and perhaps contribute to the development of performance from the early stages – often what you get from an experience is proportionate to how much time and effort you invest.
We've been overwhelmed by stories of the way the music of our teenage years have such a strong pull. A friend told me yesterday that when she thinks of the first boy she ever loved she hears Baz Luhrmann's Romeo & Juliet soundtrack in her head - The Cardigans, Garbage... She then looked him up on Facebook to show me a picture- and there was a YouTube link to his recent wedding. So we watched the whole ceremony! Gone is the time where you wonder what happened to that person, imagining their life. It's immediately available.
Be Here Now is running in a double bill with Heart by Zendeh until 26 October at the Ovalhouse