Spoiler Alert: I discuss the ending of the show Deadwood in this post.
One of the hardest things in art, as in life, is knowing when to let go of something. If you worked on something a little harder could it have been better? Can you work something over until that original spark and passion has been extinguished? I’ve made mistakes on both sides of that equation at times. One has to have enough of an ego to see a project through, but one also has to not let the ego get in the way of letting things happen naturally. Things are going to turn out like they do. At some point control is only an illusion.
If you are making a record for instance, unless you record every single instrument yourself and do all the engineering yourself, assuming you even know what you are even doing at every step of the way, things are not going to turn out exactly as you planned. As soon as other’s hands get on something it is going to change no matter how carefully planned your original intentions were. Although it is true that this can occasionally be your downfall, if you are open to new ideas you might just end up in some magical place that you hadn’t planned. Even if you are controlling as many factors as possible, you still run up against the limitations of personal talent and technology.
One of the reasons I find most session players so dreadful is that they are not confined by as many limitations as most people. They can almost play or do anything musically that one can ask of them. The problem is this usually leads to something that is imitative. It’s usually technical ability over passion. Passion most often comes out of struggle. Soul and originality is most often created in art and music in that struggle between real world limitations and the endless potential of the imagination. In that space is where something new is most often forged.
There are outliers and freaks whom can seemingly do anything with ease, and can still do it with soul, but those people come at the rate of only a few in a lifetime. If we relied on people like that our record collections and art museums would be very small indeed.
Sometimes things end seemingly prematurely, but in hindsight seem to almost end as if touched by perfection. It’s at times like these that the universe almost seems to be speaking to us. As much as I wish Lou Reed had made ten more records, if you listen to Junior Dad, his final song on his final album, it’s almost impossible to imagine a more perfect end to his career.
The Smiths’ ended their last album with the song I Won’t Share You. “I won’t share you / With the drive and the dream inside / This is my time.” It’s like their unconsciousness knew they were going their separate ways even before their conscious minds did, even though everyone claims that the recording sessions for that album were amicable. Plus, as always, Morrissey has razor sharp wit.
I was thinking about the show Deadwood today. Deadwood is a show that not only tells the story of that town, a real historic town fictionally imagined, but also tells the story of how society comes to order itself. This show that was canceled before the shows creator, David Milch, could finish the story that he wanted to tell. Unlike most westerns the “bad guy”, if you could call him that in a show filled often with moral ambiguity, rides out of town unharmed. His character represents the large corporate interests in American life that come in and destroy the natural balance of things in a community. To many fans, myself included, this ending was originally completely unsatisfactory. Not only did it not fulfill what we had come to expect in a traditional story arc, as nothing had really been tied up, but those of us that followed the show knew that this was not the way the creator had intended it to end.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought it was a perfect ending for that show. The show’s ending is truthful to the very real outcome that we tragically see too often in America. Too often we see corporations come in and destroy the balance of our communities, only to get off with little if any harm done to them. Also in a strange example of life imitating art, or vice versa, the corporate suits killed off the show in the same way that George Hearst had destroyed the balance of the town. Every time I watch the ending of that show I have knots in my stomach, but as with the rest of the show, it rings true.
One should work as hard as possible to make something the best that they can and stay as true to their vision as possible. However, one should also remember that control over the outcome is often an illusion. Don’t let that scare you. It could very often be the thing that infuses it with magic in the end.