I have been delving into my debut album Stochastic quite a bit lately. Additionally, the reviews for my album have been (honestly to my surprise since I am way out of the mainstream) extremely positive. I feel great about the success I’m having with this, but it has me thinking, what if somewhere down the line I create an album that is declared my “defining” work? You know the kind of work that everybody says is the “pinnacle” of an artist’s portfolio/discography etc.?
This happens all the time, and has happened to many artists (in numerous mediums) that I love. Pink Floyd has Dark Side of the Moon, Miles Davis has Kind of Blue, Steve Vai has Passion and Warfare and so on. I don’t think people realize that by anointing works as a “magnum opus” or a “true masterpiece” that they are indirectly putting the artist into a panic. The artists I mentioned previously went on to create earth-shattering works after the works mentioned (Pink Floyd created Wish You Were Here, Miles Davis did Bitches Brew and On the Corner, and Steve Vai has Fire Garden and Real Illusions: Reflections). In spite of these facts, no matter what the artist does that is new or fresh, their work will always be compared against the past. One of my favorite authors, the late David Foster Wallace, always struggled to create a book that would live up to the high expectations that critical praise of Infinite Jest created.
I’m not saying critics shouldn’t give positive reviews (well…unless it is Iggy Azalea or f*ck knows who else is destroying music), but maybe there should be some sort of delineation of calling something a “masterpiece.” You can just put an “a” in front of the word “masterpiece,” and it will show that the artist can still have the door wide open for their creative pursuits. I do not want to ever create my defining work. I don’t want a masterpiece. I simply want to write music that makes sense for the situation, for my creative sensibilities or whatever is necessary. I always want the ability to push my boundaries, regress to my previous efforts, or whatever I need to do to create the music I want to create. I do not want to peak in my career, although if I ever do have monetary success I suppose this will be inevitable.
I don’t want to sound like a pretentious twat with this post, I just simply want to point out that, as an artist, I need this creative thing to be forever (or…as long as my natural life allows). I think all creative people feel the same. We want works that we are proud of, but don’t want to be restricted to the comparisons that others set for us. I suppose that, in the end, it is all mental and depends on you taking the words of people in stride.
Really in the end, as an artist, your opinion is the most valuable one.