I've been thinking about this question for a few weeks. I read something while surfing a few weeks ago that cited a study done where brain activity was charted while people listened to music. They had a piece of classical music that was played perfectly, no mistakes or flubs of any kind. My guess is that it was played by some midi program. The brain activity was fairly flat. Then the same piece of music was played by a human being. There were no huge mistakes but it was anything but perfect. It included some notes that were a little early or late, maybe some pitch wasn't perfect. It also included emotion. The brain scans showed a lot more activity. Basically, the brains of the listeners were much more engaged with the imperfect renditions of the piece of music.
OK, I don't have the link and I'm not even 100% sure that the study was real or if real, reported accurately. Still, it rings true to me... I find human music much more engaging and players who play like midi computers don't impress me.
The second piece of the question goes back to our days in Albany when the Eighth Step ran a weekly open mic. It was a wonderful community. There were seasoned and touring pros who would show up and play new material they were readying for the road and there were rank beginners just learning. Sometimes the music was sublime. Other times, it was clearly the work of beginners. Everyone was affirmed and appreciated and encouraged to move further along their journey. There was none of the stereotypical, "I could do that better" that sometimes happens among musicians. There was no sense of competition. Instead, it was a wonderful and supportive community and the music was reflective of that. Alexis and I had similar feelings when we played at Songwriters at Play about a month ago.
So, where am I going with this? Music, "real" music, for me, is all about community and relationships. It need not be perfect. Indeed, when it is perfect, that probably indicates that something is not quite right about it (when have you ever experienced perfection in any of your relationships?). If you want perfect, hire a DJ or pop on a CD. If you want music, enjoy the warts, clams, and flubs and find the beautiful and sublime in the joy of creative relationships that reflect the souls of those making the music.