Ben Miller

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Open-Air Concerts


Several years ago, I became disenchanted with live performance; the ordinary bond between performer and audience. I felt its reality important to expand or change - at least for me. Much has already been done since the ’60s so yes there is plenty of research to be had. However, my primary reason was not so much "to do something new" through presentation, but rather to stop agreeing with the expected Artist Audience relationship out of my own boredom over the experience.

My first thought was to forgo the entire concept of advertisement as this is what begets the setting whereby the performance audience relationship is intended to occur; the Artist needs the Audience to validate the work and the Audience is there to judge the Artist’s product. Next, the performance should reside in a setting that is not purposefully intended for performance. The token Stage vs. Chairs or Dance Floor must cease since this divides the two and perpetuates the standard relationship of playing vs. listening. While I do relate to live performance presented off the actual stage (in the audience area, or otherwise), the intention to break the Fourth Wall and to merge with the audience is not my intention either.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve explored a self-deconstructed Gibson Kalamazoo with several pickups routed in different directions in the stereo field. The music has no commercial potential - only a sonic experience. So, performance areas such as junkyards and abandoned buildings seemed particularly appropriate. Due to the unforeseen danger and illegality of said locations, these "gigs" would most likely have no audience whatsoever - not to mention the possibility of injuring myself or at least acquiring a big fine by the authorities. Even if someone nearby became curious as to "what was happening", attending the concert would most likely not be possible.

This begs the question; "what is my audience?" Ghosts? Rats? Does it matter? The point here is the performer and the audience are no longer in a formal relationship. The Art is presented with no preconceived notion of doing anything specific or in need of gaining something outside of its own experience.

Abandoned Concerts to date:
Eastown Theater, Packard Land, Grande Ballroom — Detroit MI, 2015

(photo of Ben Miller 2015 performance @ Grande Ballroom, Detroit
by Brett Moyer)