BY JOE MENDONCA
I’ve recorded three full-length albums that no one has ever been able to put their ears to. I’ve had three record deals and never released anything through a single one of them. Each of my albums could be considered roughly 87.5% finished. There was that hi hat on the fifth track that needed more work. That friend of mine from another state still needed to record some vocals on that other song. The more prolonging of each detail, the more detail I came up with to add.
No matter how many nights I existed as a hunched frame over a glowing monitor screen, none of it could be finished. I agonized over the aesthetics as though my very lungs depended on it. Suddenly the bass tone did not reflect who I was as an artist. I would hear an impressive new record and realize that none of my work would be completed until I could dial in a similar quality. I would layer on new parts and then question why I had even written the song in the first place. There were so many details scattered across these albums that it could have made my hair stand on end.
As time passed, I grew to dislike my recordings. As I obsessed over the details, dusty cobwebs placed themselves across snare hits and broken melodies. In its unfinished state, the music rotted inside me. In the end I detested it with all my heart and decided to scrap it.
Repeat this three times over. Years went by and I had nothing to show for all the times I had rolled up my sleeves. Agonized hours had resulted in nothing. All of the creativity-wracking was shared with no one, and it only made me question if I should bother making more music. I watched friends go on to finish brilliant pieces of work, even moving on to be well known musicians. Yet there I was with absolutely nothing.
If only the details of our creativity define who we are as artists, then it only serves the purposes of our egocentric natures. It is a pride taken in what we can show, not a love for what we do as a whole. Our art will die as idealism if we sacrifice it to the gods of detail.
Don’t get me wrong, there is much beauty to be found in a seasoned artist who has developed their approach over the years. It is pure awe to experience the detailed exploration of any artist. Details are largely responsible for the character and depth of art, and that is something that every artist should burden themselves with. It is a worthy mark worth taking a certain pride in. But not letting go is self-destruction. It is a lie to oneself in the form of a mental beating and devaluing of what is placed in you.
Years later, I picked up my respective pencil and began sketching together more of my melodies. Only this time, I decided to explore whatever I discovered in the moment. I let something that I once considered not good enough just be what it was–a creative moment. I sent my ideas to friends and let them hear it for what it was. It didn’t matter if they liked it or couldn’t stand it. These recordings were masterpieces of circumstance, a part of whatever moment they came from. They were terrible and beautiful all at once.
Do I still explore details and daydream about creative ways to make things more interesting? Yes, I do. I love the challenge of progressing towards artistic quality. But I’ve learned to let art be what it is. There is a time for mastermind projects, and there is a time to enjoy the creativity that has been placed in me.