I’m a perfectionist. That’s why I haven’t recorded scores of music, promoted myself and followed through over and over.
Don’t get me wrong, I have written a lot of music in the forty some odd years since I started doing it. Some of it I have recorded, arranged and listened to.
The thing is that it has never been as good as it’s *supposed to be.
For whatever reason I obsess over the qualities that define the music.
Since it’s always a foreign sound the moment it leaves my imagination and comes back to me from out of the guitar box or the amp or the piano, it’s my duty to strangle it until I hate it and put it away in the file marked *unfinished.
So I still do this to some extent in my mind.
I just don’t follow through with the assassination. Instead of killing it I’ve learned only to pay attention to the first few seconds of that elusive sound in my head.
Philip Glass calls it an “underground river.” Yeah, you put your ear to the ground and there’s a river under the house, gurgling ghostly melodies that only I can hear.
Once I grab the first few notes I forget that I’m a musician and I pick up a paint brush and I start working. Three colors and I’m good for a painting. No matter how bizarre or plain the image forms, I can always add white or black and build layers.
And now the trick is to know when it’s finished.
The answer is never.
So I stop the moment I find myself looking for the next part or imagining what it’s going to be like to play it live. As long as I forget who I am and what I’m doing, I’m good.
When I wake up, I stop.
Miles Davis said, “I’ll play it first then I’ll tell you what it is.”
I go back, figure out what I did then I devise a way to put a space in there for my band mates to give the music their spirit.
The cure for perfection is trusting where the music came from, building a little fire and stepping back while we all fan the flame.