Vestiges: For a Friend

I debated whether I wanted to share this piece, as it was about somebody who was very dear to me at the time of its conception, who I have since had a falling out with. Someone with whom I was great friends and then began an unhealthy relationship. I learned a lot about myself during that time, which is why it is important to me. I believed for a while that it was the best song I had written, and still enjoy it, but think that far more of its potential lies in its teaching ability (as a reminder for me, if nothing else). As my relationship with the piece changed, I realised how potent the message was and how important it is to improve your future self through your previous downfalls, rather than try to forget them. I am a better person today because I was a less-balanced person then. 

At the core of this song, there is a universal message. And that is that we all have our moments of doubt and weakness, and that we are sometimes filled with blind hope and disillusion, but we persevere and our trials ultimately shape the next step in our lives. We get more brittle, or we become more malleable. I decided (mostly) to become the latter.

In addition to this, it speaks to the power of human interaction and the way that our lives are shaped by the people with which we choose to surround ourselves. The original bit that I wrote in the winter of 2016 goes..

Within another you can leave a piece of yourself.
Your projections endure tenfold when carried in the hearts of others.
Your disposition, mannerisms, sense of humour, and mood have a direct effect on not only the behaviour of others, but the trajectory of the lives of others.
There is no true isolation in humankind.
You are the product of your own existence multiplied by the characteristics of the most influential people [with which] you choose to surround yourself.
Be kind to yourself.
Be kind to others; change lives for the better.

The chronology of the lyrics is quite important. From this simple realisation sprouts nuance, as a growing relationship does, and the picture is slowly filled. The clear progression is from a place of epiphany and admiration to a blind hope and foresight that was obviously bleak, but not perceived as such until later. I feel often that my lyrics end up holding a different meaning than intended or comprehended initially. I find this so mysterious and magical. It’s like the thoughts and lyrics are coming from my unconscious and there is a layer beyond my accessible thoughts that is far more informed and insightful. Perhaps the “genius” to which Elizabeth Gilbert alludes in her Ted Talk

What grips me about this abnormally long song (so long, in fact, that as I registered the piece on SOCAN it asked if I was certain that it wasn’t two songs..) is the musical arc and how it ties in with the lyrics. It is so heavily based around the riff and tonality that enters after the intro (starting at about 0:33 seconds). This embellished G chord is “home,” so to speak. In fact, it is held for about the first minute once it comes in. This is me; this is where I feel at home or comfortable – these are my thoughts and feelings that don’t stray far from my normal thinking. From here my thoughts, both musical and lyrical, drift off into more colourful insights on the world. There is a sense of adventure and uncertainty about them which is paralleled in the chord progressions and melodies. As the song progresses they get longer, but also return to the “home” place for longer once they’ve departed (and get more adventurous and creative within that home space). 

As the song moves into the second half, it takes a moment to breathe and comes back with a similar tonality, but altered progression, that stays less attached to the feeling of home. There is an implied coming-away-from-myself; a feeling of self-doubt and restlessness. On top of this, there is also a tempo change of about four beats per minute. It feels like rushing into something or letting the momentum of one decision carry you into other decisions. It feels less certain to me. The progressions get less adventurous and more rooted around the stable-unstable relationship within the key, hinting at the growing lack of underlying conviction in the lyrics. They cycle with little change back and forth, like the cyclical thinking that takes place when you are trying to convince yourself of something. As the music and lyrics get more boisterous and compete with the growing dynamic of the music, they also get more self-convincing until a climax is reached. Unraveling from this mania comes a feeling of exhaustion. A return to a tired and tender repetition of the initial theme that was once so filled with life and hope. A different side to the sense of home feels less comfortable and worn out. The range in which the vocals sit also lowers, showing its need to rest.

The initial sentiment is repeated, swapping the order, and altering the resulting ideas. A sense of finality is reached in the quiet conclusion and descending vocal line (landing on the reclusive low tonic note of home key) though the attempted convincing continues even as it concludes.

I learned a lot about hope through this song. Hope is what keeps us going. But, as with any outlook, one that is missing a sense is uninformed. Blind hope is uninformed hope. Ignoring some elements of your progress to focus on an outcome is unhealthy. Opening yourself to authentic experience is the best way of learning, in my humble opinion – as well as others…

“The arts is more about opening yourself up to possibility. Possibility links to hope. We all need hope.” – Yo Yo Ma, The Music of Strangers

-Max

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