There is an error in Shadows and Ghosts.
During occasional battles with an ongoing obsession over symmetry and accuracy, I’ve considered correcting it…but only momentarily.
Redbone’s interpretation is slightly off-kilter: the intonation struggles in places, and there are extra beats sprinkled throughout. But I love it. Its off-balance rhythmic irregularities, the nasal grit in Redbone’s voice, the imperfect instrumental tones and pitches feel fresh and authentic. They transform a great song into a greater one.
My mother was a perfectionist. Today we would likely say her attention to detail was compulsive. But that compulsiveness got her far, made her successful at everything she did. Although I’ve spent most of life as an unapologetic underachiever, I have no doubt that some of her “perfectionism” rubbed off on me. You can’t spend hours practicing scales and arpeggios, isolated musical passages over and over without being at least a little compulsive. It’s the only way to train the brain, develop fine motor skills, make the muscles remember.
But it’s not always enough.
Along with compulsive tendencies, creation demands an oblique and often fractured perspective, a willingness to look at subject matter, construction, sideways and through a prism.
When I think of the thousands of books I’ve read, pieces of music I’ve played, I realize most of them contained errors and/or irregularities, some degree of strangeness in small or large ways that established the works as fresh and unique, that transformed and elevated them.
So I keep my error in place, because in important ways, it acts as a type of cipher. And to reinforce its importance, I put a prism in plain view.
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