Don’t Give Up the Ship

MISTAKES?

Mistakes are so common that it is said, “to err is human.” I just had to check the spelling “err” and immediately found a statement that read “experts estimate that as many as 98,000 people die in any given year from medical errors that occur in hospitals.” Of course there are the less harmful errors—like when Boston’s Mayor announces his praise of Hondo, the Celtics amazing point guard. That’s supposed to be Rondo for all you non-sports-minded music lovers. And yes, even I fall to the occasional error in the Noise. “Occasional” only because the Noise comes out but once a month—so the rest of the month I’m error-free—right. How many people caught the misspelling of the iconic name on the cover of the June issue? Yes, I made Arlo part of the Gutherie family. And that’s supposed to be Guthrie for those still not catching on. The copy editors here don’t get to look at the cover, only the inside text. But I did send a copy of that cover, a week before it was published, to Arlo Guthrie’s people without a response offering a correction. Yeah, that’s great T Max, blame it on someone else. Okay, I take full responsibility for the mistake.

This past month I was listening a lot to Gordon Bok’s famous 1988 story-song “Peter Kagan & the Wind.” I love Gordon’s music themes that accompany his story telling that represent the changing wind, the gong buoy, rowing, and Peter Kagan’s wife singing out to sea for his return. After about the 10th listen I heard what was an obvious transitional chord change mistake. I backed up the tape (yeah, I still have a cassette player in my 1999 Subaru Impreza) to spot the mistake again. It’s there, in the middle of this beautiful tale, and Gordon left it there for all to hear. How many would actually hear it? Does it matter?—he never falters with the rhythm of the tale. Then I remembered asking David Minehan (the Neighborhoods/ Woolly Mammoth Sound) what he thought the most common error bands made while recording. He said, “fixing all their mistakes.” In the digital era (ha!—should it be spelled error?), it is so easy to patch up your recording with a multitude of pitch and rhythm corrections. I know, because when I record my own drum parts, wooo, some correction is absolutely necessary. But what if I left my rhythmic ineptitude on the recording and let everyone know my little secret? I used to, sarcastically but affectionally, be called the Rhythm King in one of my early bands, Mr. Timothy Charles Duane. We had one song called “Danger” with a 2/4 polka rhythm. In it I controlled rhythm with an acoustic guitar. The other two guys each played clarinet melody lines in harmony. They later told me how I would unknowingly switch the beat around multiple times during live performances and they would continuously adjust to keep their melodies in synch with each other. I’m sure any musician listening thought we were doing some amazing time changes in this speedy song. Now maybe the song was perfect with these mistakes. It’s at least one example for a new term I’ve coined—beaufect (pronounced bo-fect). It means that in real perfection there are mistakes, because when something is technically perfect it lacks the warmth of a human perfect quality. Beaufect: perfect only because it contains small errors.

Then there are other kinds of mistakes I’ve made in my life. I seem to be very good at screwing up close relationships. But as far as life goes, maybe there’s room for beaufection.  So I’ll take the advice that this column always offers… Don’t give up the ship.

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