I think that it’s emotionally unhealthy to set goals that lie beyond the realm of what we possibly can control. We can create art that more clearly expresses our ideas, but we absolutely cannot predict how that art will be perceived by any specific audience. I think that it’s important to place our goalposts carefully so that we always will be striving towards creating a better product.
When we have a specific schtick—for example we paint unicorns and rainbows—it can be comforting to those people who enjoy our art. From piece to piece they know what to expect, greatly reducing the chances of disappointing a commissioner or viewer. But I prefer the aspect of the music world that allows me to create work in a range of different media with a variety of expressive focus. I hope that outsiders view my music as expressing a voice, emanating from a single perspective, but I accept the risk that they might not.
As I mentioned last week in this space, over the winter holidays I experienced a period of relatively severe burnout that left me unable to complete any task requiring more than a modicum of intellectual commitment. One of the chores that I set for myself in order to feel somewhat useful was the digitization of my entire music library.
At unpredictable intervals I enter periods in which I remain inexorably and unequivocally incapable of work. Sometimes a glut of good fortune can leave me working beyond my constitutional capabilities. Then, suddenly and without warning, I realize that my sources of energy have been reduced to mere embers. I find myself in the state of burnout.
The best performers I know are also inveterate perfectionists; before they would agree to venture onto the stage, they have a clear picture of their ideal performance. Paradoxically, our human frailty will never allow any of us to achieve that singular vision. Adding to the difficulty of the musician’s life is the fact that their view of exactly what constitutes the Platonic ideal performance will inevitably shift.