Is Perfect Possible?

Is Perfect Possible? I guess those who think so would say so. I don't think it is. Perfect is an idea, a goal. Getting close is what we strive for. The journey to get close is the reward. But it's like the speed of light. The closer you get, the harder it gets, ad infinitum.

However, the pursuit of perfection can either lead us to glorious highs in artistic excellence, or it can drag us down to dungeons of pickiness and self-doubting. So the idea, its allures and gifts as well as its poisons and deceits should be addressed in order to strive toward it without hurting yourself.

Darin Wilson, a Twitter friend (@dariwilson) posted about those very ups and down, adding some good practical advice, in Perils of Perfectionism, a thoughtful and insightful article, which he playfully (or perhaps not) notes is "not quite right" yet.

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6 comments for “Is Perfect Possible?

  1. December 17, 2009 at

    Ricardo is almost never completely happy with his playing.
    What does that tell you? 🙂 I've heard him play amazingly well (and I'm a real ball buster) that he wasn't happy with.

    It's keeping your standards super high.

    • December 17, 2009 at

      Hi David. I agree. The thing people don't understand it that it takes more and more work to get really close to perfect. THAT is what perfect is, not absolute, but relative. It must be it's own reward, or it becomes TOO much work for most people. Artists have to be a little crazy to be as good as they are! :-0

  2. Tim
    December 7, 2009 at

    When I studied with Ricardo Morales he used to say the key was to be HAPPY with your playing, just don’t be satisfied. If you aren’t happy, what’s the point?

  3. December 7, 2009 at

    I'll need to go read Darin's post; my initial counterpoint is, before we can determine if it is possible, What is it?


    • December 7, 2009 at

      Oh no, Karl. You are really opening a huge can of worms. But your question is absolutely valid. I think we, or at least I, am talking about performance perfection. I'd say perfection is flawless execution of every note, with every dynamic printed, or chosen by the performer, and with a natural musical fluidity.

      Perfection of that sort is possible with recordings, since they are editable. But I don't think a performer can say a live performance it ever \”perfect\” in the definition above. There are always a few mis-steps.

      • December 8, 2009 at

        OK – here's another can of worms 🙂

        Perfection in a recording is theoretically possible – but is it desirable? I think a lot of the editing and studio tweaking that goes on in many modern recordings ends up sucking the life out of them, and maybe the "mistakes" aren't so bad after all.

        I was listening to "Stairway To Heaven" the other day. The recorders in the opening section are badly out of tune – does that wreck the song? Hardly. In many Jimi Hendrix recordings (notably "Hey Joe") the drummer's fills often miss the down beat by a mile. And yet, those recordings groove like nobody's business. I have a recording of Bernstein and the NY Phil doing the Eroica, and a single violinist plays during one of the rests in the tutti hemiola section of the first movement – it's still a brilliant recording. There are lots of other examples.

        So, how much perfection does anyone really need? 🙂

        P.S. Thanks for the link, David – you helped spawn a really interesting discussion.

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