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Undergraduate Student Spotlight – Mason Rausch 

How did you come up with the idea of studying “liveness” in music?
Music has always been a big part of my life and when I was old enough to start going to concerts, I fell completely in love with live music. My younger sister (six years my junior) is a fantastic musician and has been attending classes and performing in live shows with School of Rock since she was eight years old. Because of this, live music has become a big part of my family and my personal history. Whether I am watching my sister kill it on stage, one of my favorite artists in an arena, or an artist I’ve never heard of in a tiny dive bar, each live performance creates a different feeling of excitement and amazement. I wanted to find out if others feel the same way I do about live music and show others how incredible live performance can be.

What surprised you the most when putting together this documentary?
Sometimes we get so convinced of our own opinions that we begin to believe they’re facts. The thing that surprised me the most while creating this documentary was how many people prefer recorded music over live music and don’t really enjoy going to concerts. At first I was quite indignant at the idea that anyone could not like live music; but the more I thought about it and the more I opened my mind, I began to understand some of the reasoning. Everyone takes in art differently and everyone has different preferences based on their personal adherence to aesthetic hierarchies. As they say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

What do you think your documentary has to say about the relevance of “liveness” in the 21st century?

The age in which we live has brought about new modes of understanding and redefined our human experience in many ways. One topic that my film explores is the “new definition” of liveness. Technology allows us to experience live entertainment like we’ve never been able to before through YouTube, television, and various platforms that stream live broadcasts and hold recordings of live performances. Whether or not you consider a pre-recorded and uploaded video of a concert truly live, technology has granted the ability to experience some form of liveness to those that otherwise would not be able to.

Which ideas discussed in class did you find most useful when approaching this topic?

Throughout my studies, I’ve learned a lot about the relationship between music and culture. In almost all cultures, music is something that unites people. In the US, though perhaps less “traditional” than other cultures, people are united through common experiences at live performances, appreciation of the same recordings, and memories associated with specific songs, albums, or artists. Learning about how music in integrated into other cultures helped me understand how it’s integrated into my own.

What’s your next project?

I am currently working on two projects that I’m very excited about. Over winter break, I was able to travel to London with Dr. Regan, one of our Performance Studies professors, and his “Performance in World Cultures” class. The organization that we traveled through, IES Abroad, hosts a film festival each year for shorts that “capture the spirit of study abroad.” I collected copious footage throughout the trip and I will be conducting interviews with my classmates to make a film to submit to the festival. I am also working on my senior capstone which all Performance Studies students must complete during their final spring semester. David Treviño, one of my colleagues featured in “Experience Music,” and I are working together to research the different methods in which films get soundtracked. We’d like to find out which method is most effective in creating a lasting association in the memory of the audience between a song and the film it’s featured in. Along with our research, we will be devising a compilation of film shorts that we will soundtrack through different methods.