Notes On Perfect

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It’s said that perfectionism is a dangerous trait that leads you on endless goose chases after forever unattainable standards. Or that perfectionism catches you in its net of your own making, as the depth of your aspirations slowly suffocate your ability to finish things: If only I could fix this, this, and this, then it would be…perfect.

I had wanted the music to sound perfect. Perfect meaning: you can hear the right parts at the right times, the volume of harmonies to beats balance just so, and there is spatial clarity and dynamism and coherence that draws you in without you knowing it. Perfect meaning that everything that needs to be in the music is there, and everything unnecessary jettisoned as if they never happened. Perfect meaning the music trusts the listener to actively get it. And Perfect meaning the cumulative and iterative improvising, editing, and arranging I had done but now only half recall somehow add up to the appropriate sonic sum.

But I didn’t arrive at Perfect. Yes, I arrived at something that I like, but I’m nagged by the possibility that what I like could be/could have been better. The problem is, I don’t know how to make it better. Yes, I could try out new things or re-organize what I have or maybe scrap everything—which would be the most epic edit of all!—but I’m not sure Perfect is worth that additional exploration (and let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water, come on). Also, I don’t know if I would recognize Perfect if I encountered it. Another interpretation of this dilemma is that Perfect has already done its job, itemizing how many shortcomings I have. In no particular order: I have don’t have the right energy or vibes, I keep missing obvious things, I don’t know what needs to be known, my ideas are thin, I overcomplicate trivialities, my technical know-how is spotty, my execution tentative, and what was I thinking when I began? This is how Perfect cuts everyone down to size.  

One by-product of producing/composing music then, is that each project feels like a failure to arrive at Perfect. There are too many variables, too many unknowns, too many real and imagined shortcomings of the maker, and too little time-well-spent to get everything just right. But this is okay, because now that Perfect has disappeared over the horizon what’s left is the Imperfect music. Alone and adrift in the world, your music depends on the goodwill of strangers, singing its ragged song for them in the hopes that, at least for the moment, this sounds good enough.  

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