I have a habit of claiming a piece to be “done” numerous times before it is legitimately complete. Wishful thinking, I guess. Mixing and mastering require days of tweaking – what sounds right in headphones rarely translates to loudspeakers. Different listening environments will reveal needed adjustments, usually to levels and shapes in the bass frequencies. (I draw the line at testing how something sounds on a smartphone speaker – if that is your listening source, you already don’t care about sound quality.)
But something a little unusual happened recently, where I decided late in the mixing stage that I simply didn’t like a song as it was. Not just the mix; the song itself was lacking, performance-wise. And it fell short lyrically.
So I slept on it. When I woke early the next morning, new lyrics more or less revealed themselves to me. Within an hour, I had a handful of lines that improved the song – on which I had previously spent countless palms-to-forehead hours – from barely passable to good.
Without getting too mystical about it, what fascinates me is how those lines emerged, seemingly without effort on my part. Now, I cannot discount my obvious mental engagement in the song’s creative environs, subconsciously or otherwise, but there was definitely a power fueled by resignation, by letting go and getting out of the way. Some people call it Collective Consciousness. Others think it is just our brains processing information beneath our awareness. Whatever it is, I value it highly. This “tame the ego” concept is not new to me, but due to the passive acceptance it requires, it is an elusive one to put into intentional practice.
Coming so late in the process is what made this gift from the muses such an unusual one. It meant having to re-record sections of the song, which I am generally loath to do, but in this case, I eagerly attacked the modifications. And while I still venerate the magical imperfection of improvisation and newness (the first take often remains the best), sometimes the magic only comes at the end. Sometimes a creative work will only tell you what it wants to be when it is nearly done.
Now that it feels right, I can move on.