Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Part 2: What is perfection?

What is perfection? What is a perfectionist?

I used to think perfection was when you performed a task perfectly from start to finish and were left with absolutely no doubts about what you accomplished. I thought that perfectionists were people who were able to do just that. Everything they did, they did to perfection. There was no doubt in their mind that they performed the task exactly as they had planned, right from the start. I did not think that I was a perfectionist.

“It is our very search for perfection outside ourselves that causes our suffering.” ~The Buddha

But eventually it occurred to me that maybe a perfectionist was a person who strives so hard for perfection that they think they never quite attain it no matter how close they might come. They second guess almost every little thing they do because they think they could have done better. Sometimes they may not even finish what they set out to do because they are afraid they won’t do it perfectly, so what’s the point in trying they figure. I began to wonder if I was a perfectionist.

“Have no fear of perfection - you’ll never reach it.” ~Salvador Dali

I wondered if that was another reason I had not pursued recording a solo album before. Was I afraid it wouldn’t be good enough?  As a musician, and more so as a composer, recording an album is a very personal experience for me, whether it’s with Perpetual Motion or as a solo artist. I am putting myself and my songs out there for people to listen to and, hopefully, enjoy. But what if they don’t? That’s the hard part for most performers and artists, I think. For the most part we’re doing what we do because we love our art, be it music, dance, painting, acting, etc. But we want to be recognized and appreciated as well. It’s just part of the job, really. If I was composing and playing guitar solely for my artistic satisfaction, I probably wouldn’t record at all. So I must want people to like what I do. That’s the scary part.

“Perfection itself is imperfection.” ~Vladimir Horowitz

Nature is perfect only in its imperfection. That’s what makes life so perfect, that everything is imperfect. That got me to thinking that perfection to one person is not the same as to another, so nothing can be perfect if everyone is different. That's when I came up with the perfect title for my CD: Perfect Imperfection.

Friday, July 12, 2013

My solo album, Part 1

I have wanted to record a solo album for years. It had always been in the back of my mind that I would do it someday, but that “someday” was always beyond tomorrow. In early 2009 I decided that “someday” was today.

I realized that part of my procrastination was thinking that I had to get all the songs I wanted on the album ready to record all at once. That’s what we do when recording a Perpetual Motion album. But recording with a band and as a soloist are two very different creatures, I decided. When we recorded String Theory, we booked two 10 hour sessions on back to back days and tracked all ten songs. After that Josie and I went in and added our overdubs, but the main tracks were done. As a band that’s not too hard to do. It takes a lot of work on everyone’s part, but each musician is focused on their part. I don’t have to worry about the bass, drums or violin because I know the other players know their stuff. I can concentrate on the guitar parts and fitting in with the ensemble. Recording as a solo guitarist is different - it’s all me.

As a soloist I’m obviously playing melody, bass and harmony all together. I have to cover everything, so I have to listen to how the bass notes sound against the treble strings - are they overpowering the melody? Am I letting notes ring when I want them to, and muting them when I don’t? I have to think about those things when I’m with the band, but to a lesser degree because I’m not always playing a melody line, I’m not always playing the bass part. But as a soloist, I am always playing all the parts. So I decided the best approach would be to get two or three songs ready, book some studio time and record them, then get two or three more songs ready, book another session, and so on. I knew this approach would take a while, but hey, I was in no hurry.

In late July ‘09 I called Colorado Sound and booked a recording session for August 18. The same day I made the call, Josie, my wife, musical partner and producer of my solo album, received a call from her doctor. For months we had thought she had arthritis, but the treatment wasn’t working very well. The doctor was calling with a new diagnosis - lupus. We were stunned, but oddly relieved to know what was really going on with her. Now maybe she could get on the right meds and begin to recover and, fortunately, that is what happened. But at the time it was sobering news, and that night I started thinking that I couldn’t start working on a recording project now, not with my wife going through this. I felt like it would be selfish of me to do so. I told Josie what I was thinking and she shot that down immediately! She said she wanted me to go ahead with my plans, and we even talked about how, pragmatically, it would be a good time for me to begin a solo project. We weren’t gigging much because of her illness, so we had the time for me to focus on a solo album. She has had an amazing attitude all along - she’s not about to let lupus rule her life, and apparently not about to let it rule mine, either.

So on August 18, 2009, we went to Colorado Sound Studios to record the first three songs for my album.