I played a concert in Lund cathedral last night with a group of extraordinary musicians led by the American vocalist, trombonist and composer Scott Stroman as part of the KOPAfestival 2011. One of the things that struck me with this performance was the audience and how we as musicians connected with them despite the formal character of the environment. Every improvising musician knows how the audience can influence a performance and what a difference it makes when things “are right”. The same can be said from the perspective of the audience. It is unbelievably rewarding to listen to a magic performance. However, it is much more difficult to pin point the nature of this interaction. What is it that the audience provides and what does it get back? How is the musician influenced? Is it the rewarding feeling of confirmation that makes the musician play better? Or is the music in fact the same and it is only the feeling and the perception that is altered?
I don’t have any answers to these questions but if we allow ourselves to compare group interaction in a musical performance with human computer interaction it is interesting that what is help in high esteem in HCI - user feedback - is rather different in musician-audience interaction. As a listener in a concert it is not important to me to understand the connection between that which I supply and that which I get back. Neither is it important for me as a musician to understand to symmetry of my interactions with the listeners. It is not even important that the interaction is balanced or equal. It is enough to know that there is an exchange going on.