BIOGRAPHY OF A SONG:  All For This Moment, by Edric Haleen


(Originally posted at the “soon-to-be-defunct” Too Much Awesome website [toomuchawesome.ning.com])



THE ORIGINS:


I wrote this song for the first round of Masters of Song Fu #4.  The challenge was to write a song from the point of view of an inanimate object.  No moving parts.  Nothing anthropomorphic.  No celestial bodies.


I spent a little time thinking about what object to choose.  It took a while, because I didn’t want to just pick an object "in-and-of itself."  From having just taught third grade writing (yes -- I really did learn this for the first time at the age of 34 -- thanks Lucy Calkins!), I had learned that good writing usually focuses on a specific moment or event -- not just a general theme or thing or idea.  Ultimately, of course, I chose the joint ideas of an engagement ring and the moment of its presentation.  (The choice was somewhat ironic -- as I ended up writing this song on May 16th and 17th, and my divorce hearing was being held the afternoon of May 18th.  But I recognized the emotional power of this particular choice, and wanted to pursue the song, so I went with it.)



THE PROCESS:


The lyric actually suggested itself fairly readily.  I imagined the scene from the diamond’s point of view, and wrote down what I saw.  I also had a very clear image in my mind of the display case from which I picked out my wife’s engagement ring, and I really enjoyed turning that image inside-out, and imagining the view from inside the case -- blinking at the bright halogen lights above; looking up at the faces staring down . . .  If you look at the “bonus information” on the song page, you can see how little the lyric changed between its inception and its finished form.


The music was interesting.  You can get a .pdf copy of the sheet music by clicking here, so that those of you who are interested can “follow along” in the music as I discuss what I think are interesting little details.  (If you’re not interested, that’s okay too.)


I definitely tried to evoke the same kind of emotional tone in the music for this song as I hear in Adam Guettel’s The Light In The Piazza.  And, to my ear, this music is very “suspended.”  What I mean by that is that the music essentially never resolves.  The song is written in the key of F.  Which means that an F-Major chord is the tonic chord of the scale.  Whenever you hear an F chord, that’s “home” -- that’s musically where a line or a chord progression resolves.


There is only one F chord in this entire song.  (It’s at measure 9 -- on the word “bright.”  And technically, it’s really an F-add9 chord.)


Every other chord in the entire song is, in some manner, unresolved.  And that lends a certain tension to the song.  On the first page of music, the left hand starts on a C (the fifth, or “dominant” tone of the scale), and progresses upwards chromatically to the minor seventh, until it finally arrives at the tonic at measure nine.  (Listen carefully to that chord -- the one that sounds on “It used to be bright.”  It’s a beautifully "centered" chord -- and paying attention to how this chord sounds will help you compare and understand what I’m talking about when I say that none of the other chords in this song are “resolved” like that one is.)


For most of the rest of the song, the left hand stays in the same range of notes as on the first page -- the interval between a C and an Eb.  There are only two exceptions.  One is my favorite harmonization in the entire piece, and I “found it” completely by accident.  It’s when the left hand switches to the G (which is a major 2nd in the key) at measures 19 and 20, during the line, “... pointing down through the glass . . .”  That chord, as well as the ascending eight-note figure which is shared by the two hands during those measures, makes my heart lift every time I hear it.  But originally, it was going to be more of the harmonic structures that I’d already used.  I simply played the wrong chord one time while I was playing through what I had written so far.  But is sounded so good, and provided such a wonderful change to the ear, that there was no way I wasn’t keeping it.


(The other measure that’s different is measure 35, which also uses a G in the left hand, but here, it’s part of the harmonic progression that underpins the word, “Light!”)


Now -- lots of times, composers use unresolved chords to add tension to a musical scene.  (And by dragging out the dissonances or the suspensions, they can heighten the feeling of release when the music finally does reach its resolution.)  But this song never resolves.  In fact, at the end (measures 49 and 50), the ascending eighth notes switch to a modal scale (Lydian -- for you music geeks out there) -- where the notes are suddenly all part of the C major scale, instead of F major.  Now, you could argue that this is because a proposal of marriage is a wholly transitional moment -- it’s not the end of a journey or a moment of “arrival” or anything, and so the song is left musically “looking forward,” or something like that.  But here again is just a case of doing something that sounded good, and going with it.  I knew I wanted an ascending line, to suggest the ring sliding up her finger.  The cool modal feel that I got from playing just white keys provided a cool effect.  So I kept it.


But with all of this musical hijinks going on in the background, the song nevertheless sounds lovely and very cohesive.  Which seems somewhat paradoxical at first.  But something sneaky is going on in the right hand.  The left hand is busy providing the dissonance and the chords that refuse to resolve.  And the right hand is doing a little bit of that, as well.  But the right hand is also providing a great deal of stability to the music.  If you examine closely -- every single chord in the song contains a middle C and the F a fourth higher than that in the right hand.  These are the tonic and dominant notes in the chord -- the two most “stable” notes in the key.  And the fact that these two notes are everywhere present in the song gives the song a continuity and a “center,” even while the left hand is pulling the music in odd directions harmonically.



In all, I’m very happy with this little song.  I like it even more that, as someone else from Song Fu put it, “It could have been called, ‘It All Makes Sense At The End.’”  (Meaning, I didn’t ever have my ring say, “Hi!  I’m an engagement ring!”  It just tells its story, and the listener eventually has enough context clues to put the whole picture together.)  If I had any skills in video production, I’d love to make a video for this song.  I can see the whole thing in my mind, but I know I don’t have the skills or the equipment to realize it the way I’d want to.



Oh well -- can’t do everything!