Maybe this is the result of over-rationalizing the seemingly endless stream of typos I’ve made over the years or the occasional factual gaffe, but I’m beginning to realize that mistakes are not only unavoidable, they’re the prime force in shaping history.
Mistakes are how all the languages we currently speak (including music) got the way they are and are probably the only way all of them will ever evolve beyond what we currently speak. E.g. It’s how judgement changed to judgment and is slowly changing back to judgement. It’s also how people woke up to the fact that perfect fifths in equal temperament don’t sound so bad, or, for that matter, how we got equal temperament in the first place.
Upon rare occasions, innovators have been totally honest about this. George Perle evolved a whole new branch of 12-tone tonality out of what began as his admittedly misperceiving part of Schoenberg’s theory. Frederic Rzewski’s Les Moutons des Panurge is a process piece derived from an ensemble’s mistakes and there’s a minimalist piece I’ve been dying to hear for years by a British composer named David Cunningham in which a performer’s mistakes in a repeating sequence generate the next sequence.
I’ve had episodes in my own music where performers’ mistakes have sounded better to me than what I had originally written and I’ve changed the music accordingly. And, sometimes, whether you’ve got writer’s block or listener’s block, the only way to a new path is by blindly going down the wrong one.