“Incomplete” — It’s striking how often we as artists and musicians view the word as a negative, no?
I mean, listen, I’m all about striving to ‘complete’ something I’m working on, but has anything I’ve made ever been truly “finished” or do I just get to a place where I have to be done with it and send it off into the universe? And, if that’s the case, can I ever learn to view the “incompleteness” of my work as something that enhances it?
I was recently listening to an interview with U2 from around the time of the Joshua Tree anniversary tour where Bono was talking about how he felt like his songwriting on certain songs like, “Where The Streets Have No Name,” “MLK,” and “Bad,” was “incomplete.”
“I just wish I’d finished the song… lyrically it was just a sketch,” Bono said as he explained how that regret stuck with him through the years and how he was reminded of it each night of the tour. That’s when Zane Lowe (who was interviewing the band) asked,
“How can you ask a question of an audience with a complete thought? Surely it has to be incomplete in order to get a reaction from them.”
You see Bono freeze in realization. “Ooh… ok… that’s interesting… oh… I’ve never…” — he’s interrupted, the conversation moves on, but he comes back to it later, “Incomplete thought’s ARE generous… because you allow the listener to finish them.”
Maybe there’s something there…
What if the only person who can ever complete whatever it is you’re working on is the person you’re making it for?
P.S. Here’s the full U2 interview:
For The Curious…
Rob Morgan is an internationally touring bassist and music director who keeps a weather eye out for the curious. He can be found online at www.therobmorgan.com