Extemporaneous Perfection

Day 34 Week 5 Q1  Friday, February 3, 2023

In a day where much of our output can be digitally perfected. Photographs can be reframed after they are shot. The contrast, color balance, and much more can be performed post-capture. In music, pitch and timing can be corrected, bad notes can be replaced, and much more can be accomplished. When we write, we have spell checkers and grammar checkers. Even texts can be recalled and unsent. 

But when something happens in person, like a conversation, a theater production, and a live concert, there are no do-overs and no corrections. You can not un-see or ruin-hear what you have experienced. And this is terrific because, contrary to popular belief and wishful thinking, on the part of less skilled communicators, actors and musicians, there really is such a thing as reality. I hate to sound so harsh, but this overcorrecting, while tremendously powerful, is not the same thing as doing it right in the first place.

Why do you think ticket prices have skyrocketed to being unaffordable for much of humanity? Because audiences can tell the difference. Or at least they think they can. When performances use backing tracks and many other non-human or not necessarily human-performed components, it becomes increasingly difficult to determine who is doing what and when. 

I do not think this is a problem. It is just a set of new options we humans have cooked up to entertain ourselves. And if artificial stuff is less expensive, then more people can afford it. And less skilled communicators and performers can participate in the arts.

But there is also such a thing as Extemporaneous Perfection. Extemporaneous does not mean unprepared for. Orators practice their speeches, musicians practice playing their instruments, and actors practice their lines. But once they have achieved a level where they can deliver the goods in real-time without do-overs and take backs and walk this or that back from what was said, you can experience reality. And in real-time!

There are many reasons a symphony orchestra can perform live. Any performance they make can be recorded in real-time instead of going into a studio and spending a year making an album. But they are all mostly boiled down to practice and preparation.

Is there risk in live performance? Absolutely! When you hear jazz artists reach for notes they have not played, they may miss them, which is part of the excitement. We are becoming obsessed with attempting to perfect things by eliminating all risks. For me, if there is no risk, there is no reality. And that is one of the reasons there is a vacuum of leadership, but pre-ponderousness of telegenic nicely coifed politicians.   

If everything has to be perfect, then none of it can be real, and nothing can be confirmed. The attempts to rewrite history are another example of this desire to edit post-reality into creating a new reality.

Creative outliers do need to create, innovators innovate mostly involuntarily, and real leaders do not constantly have to walk back what they said because it might not be optimal.

All of this attempting to sanitize what we do and say and perform will result in guaranteeing that artificial intelligence will eventually take over. Humans are capable of extemporaneous perfection, but if every mole and slightly out-of-tune note is eliminated, what will be left will not be human at all.

As a creator, I aspire to get to the level where I can deliver extemporaneous perfection. Yes, it is risky, and yes, I may never get there, but it is a goal, nevertheless.

I do believe that extemporaneous perfection is possible, but that also requires overlooking irrelevant flaws. I have to do this or be a hypocrite as an extremely imperfect person.

If you want machines to take over, then require machine-like behavior. Creativity is not about being perfect. It is about being authentic. I, for one, would much rather experience authenticity than fake post-produced perfection.

And occasionally, I experience extemporaneous perfection.