A Song For Somebody Special

Write about someone who has influenced your life or a time that you have experienced great change.

When my English teacher died last spring, I wrote in his tribute a song called “Confusion.” It is not the most technically impressive thing I have written, but it’s my favorite because it conveys emotions I still can’t put into words. Taking center stage to act out his lessons, Mr. McGovern seemed to have no problem finding words to make his feelings understandable to everyone.”Confusion” is a guitar piece, slow, sad and dark. It must be finger-picked by each finger, not just the thumb or plectrum, to create a tone of smoothness. Although it is sad, it is also somehow calming. It’s about a search which keeps returning to the same point. Each journey becomes more difficult, yet each one, despite increasing hardships, comes to the same sad destination. For instance, in the third verse, when the song shifts to the higher pitched chord of D minor, it seems for a moment that simple happiness is within reach, but returns immediately to the A minor chord before going to the even deeper and darker sounding E minor in root position. At that point the darkness deepens, and it lasts twice as long as the other verses of the song because, instead of reverting to the chorus, the song repeats its darkest verse. The hope of a happy ending is defeated. The song ends on the same chord it starts with.Mr. McGovern was inspired by the connections between opposites. He told us that all things are intertwined and interdependent, that harmony depends on relations that seem discordant, that human nature starts with the discordance of the three fs: feeding, fighting, fucking. Like any other animal, man can be horrible, hungry, or hopeful. We listened raptly as he paced across the semi-circle of our desks and gave us words for these oppositions: Apollonian-Dionysian, Yin-Yang. We knew that as he spoke Mr. McGovern was making sense of his own confusion and was encouraging us to try to do the same.”Confusion” may seem to fall short of Mr. McGovern’s ideal of resolving opposites. Its key is solely minor. In all my other pieces in a minor key, I raise the final chord by a third, the so-called picardy third, which transforms a minor into its relative major. But the picardy third did not belong here; mixing the happy major with the melancholy minor seemed inappropriate. If this unresolved tension seems to oppose Mr. McGovern’s spirit, that was not my intention. The song is melancholy since it is an elegy. The searcher, who is actually me, has lost the direction given to him by his mentor. The title refers to the time before I came under his tutelage and also to the time immediately after. The long search for enlightenment, never completed, lasts the duration of the song, like my futile efforts to understand myself. The chorus, or the place that I always find myself in, is the blunt answer to what I am seeking. I cannot accept this so I try to understand myself by some other means. The significance of the song is that the harder I try to find myself the harder the search becomes. The ending of Confusion is the only ending that fits. The song’s echoes the most valuable thing I learned from Mr. McGovern: we are inherently the way we are, and to understand ourselves we need to accept the truths about human beings. The picardy third would imply that I found the answer to my search, despite my self-centered method of searching, and would provide a happy ending. The more fitting ending is an understanding of human imperfection . By ending the piece on the same chord it begins with, the song says that humankind needs to relieve itself from the vanity apparent in the verses in order to recognize its equal role in nature. “Allow not nature more than nature needs, man’s life is cheap as beast’s.” (King Lear, II, iv, 307-8).

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