Art is never finished, only abandoned.
— Leonardo da Vinci
While I cannot find the definitive source of the above quotation, there is much evidence that da Vinci maintained an ongoing relationship with his art, particularly with the Mona Lisa. What does it teach us that such a genius, such a master, would never consider his work final? And what does it caution when we think of art in finite terms? For example, how much does the music world lose when an album is “finished”?
Of course there are compelling commercial reasons to deliver products to patrons, as da Vinci himself did when he presented the Last Supper. But if such frescoes were portable, and if he could have schleped his own personal copy back to the studio, might he have found yet new inspiration or created yet new refinements that would have further enhanced his legacy? Could he have satisfied more than one patron, perhaps even schools of patrons who could have helped him build a stronger financial legacy?
If there were a popular music version of The Last Supper it would have to be an album by the Beatles. Measured by popularity and commercial success, the Beatles were (and remain today) one of the defining icons of Popular Music. They, like da Vinci, changed the way we saw and understood the world. But was their vision, were the moments they committed to records so perfect they could not be re-interpreted? One would have thought so until, ironically enough, the three remaining Beatles decided that they could not just Let It Be. If the Beatles can find new among the old and better among the best, then what are we missing amongst all the other records of all the other artists whose work we admire?
A point is not part of a line.
— Leonardo da Vinci, Notebook II
A single mix of any artist is not, alas, a part of the artists work. It is a separate artifact, standing by itself. Perhaps it will satisfy a patron, cheer a friend, or inspire another to practice their craft. Art lives not in the point, but in a line stretching from beginning to end. The better we can create a place and an understanding for the continuous nature of art (and music!) the better we may be able to honor the artist while expanding their audience.