Is There An Artistic Equivalent Of A “Live Version” Of A Song? – A Ramble

Well, since I’m still going through a bit more of a musical phase than usual, I thought that I’d try a bit of a thought experiment – is there any kind of visual art equivalent of a “live version” of a song?

I started thinking about this because I’ve been listening to a live album from 2006-8 by a heavy metal band called Gamma Ray. One surprising thing about this album is that a couple of the live recordings on the album sound significantly different to live recordings of the same songs on another one of Gamma Ray’s live albums from 1995.

In this eleven-year time gap, the live recording of a song called “Man On A Mission” has gone from this epic, soaring, deep thing (in the 1995 live version) to a significantly faster, lighter and more eccentric song in the 2006 recording. I’m not sure which version I prefer, but it’s a perfect example of how live recordings allow musicians to rearrange and reinterpret their songs.

Of course, there’s also the contrast between the live version of a song and the studio version too. Some songs (like “Generator” by Bad Religion) sound better in studio recordings and some songs (like “Ever Dream” by Nightwish) sound better in live recordings.

Obviously, there isn’t really a direct equivalent to all of this when it comes to making art. By definition, most paintings or drawings are “studio versions”. Yes, there are things like time-lapse art videos, street art etc… but these often involve the creation of totally new pieces of art rather than repeating a familiar piece of art, in the way that a musician might play a familiar song during every concert.

So, we’ll have to be a bit more indirect. In other words, we need to look at the underlying qualities that make live recordings of music so interesting. These include things like variation, rawness and audience interaction.

Variation is fairly easy to include in visual art. Simply put, just make multiple versions of the same painting (at different times, or with different materials) and/or multiple paintings about the same subject. For example, here are two versions of the same digitally-edited painting that were made about two or three years apart from each other:

“Trendy 90s Cafe” By C. A. Brown [2014/15]

“Trendy 90s Cafe (II)” By C. A. Brown [2017/18]

Although this is a great way to measure your progress as an artist, it also allows us to do what musicians do and reinterpret our “greatest hits” in new ways. Yes, it isn’t really the same as a live performance, but it allows us to do one of the things that makes live versions of songs so interesting.

As for “roughness” or “rawness” – just try using more basic, minimalist or primitive tools. For example, I once tried to recreate a photograph I took in 2009 using MS Paint:

This is a comparison of a photo I took and my attempt at recreating it in MS Paint.

As for audience interaction, this one is fairly self-explanatory. But, if you don’t have the time to reply to comments etc.. then one way to add some audience interaction to your art is simply to accompany each picture of painting with a short paragraph that explains either how or why you made that particular piece of art (kind of like how musicians will sometimes introduce songs during live performances).

So, no, there’s no direct equivalent to a “live version” of a song in the visual arts. But, if we look at the underlying elements that make live versions of songs so interesting (eg: variations, rawness etc..) then we can use those underlying things to make our art more interesting.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂