When Love Falls Apart and The Beauty of Melancholy

 

A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.”

― Percy Bysshe Shelley

Breaking up with someone you truly loved is one of the hardest things to do. To actively break up things, like dividing up furniture, pets, photos – and even friends – keeps the excruciating pain out of reaching distance for a while. But after the sorting out is done and the fights are over, the wounds heal only very slowly and the feeling of despair and tragedy smothers your life like a grey, wet blanket for a very long time. The ballad “When Love Falls Apart” grew out of exactly these feelings.

For me it is still a very emotional song to sing because every time it brings up all of these old and painful feelings and memories. Ironically however, the song marks both an end and a beginning: “When Love Falls Apart” was the very first song Greg Porée and I wrote together. Greg, who is a truly wonderful and versatile player and also the lead guitarist on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars” is also a great jazz composer. I had almost completed the lyrics and had a hooky and suitable melody for the chorus but the verses were still incomplete. We took it from there and finished it fairly quickly. Greg came up with some lovely additional chords and the melody just wrote itself.

I then recorded and released the song as a single in 2010 after playing an unplugged show at the famous singer-songwriter music venue Genghis Cohen in Los Angeles: Accompanying me on classical guitar was my co-writer Greg. That evening, we played the ballad for the first time live. The way the song came to life and people connected to it, motivated me to record it as a single to just “get it out there”. Although I was already working on songs for my album it just felt right to release that version – just with voice and classical guitar.

Last year, I started working with the amazing jazz pianist Jeff Colella. Piano was my first and is my favourite instrument. It is also my musical typewriter, so I usually have very precise ideas of how I want things to sound. But Jeff’s interpretation of music is often quite amazing, always bringing other nuances and surprising colours to a piece. With Jeff and the fabulous bass player Trey Henry, I decided to re-record it for my new album. A few weeks ago Greg wrote a string arrangement for two celli (played by Matthew Cooker and Peter Jacobsen) and violin (Paul Cartwright). With the strings another magical layer was added.

Yesterday we went into the studio again to record the vocals. I have played and performed this song so often now but when I dimmed the lights in my vocal booth and put my headphones on and the music started playing it was almost overwhelming. But this time it was the ambivalence of something so heartbreaking having turned into something so beautiful. I suddenly felt, this was the true meaning of melancholy: It’s when an emotional experience of sadness and despair possesses a deep beauty.

Or like Virginia Woolf writes: “The melancholy river bears us on. When the moon comes through the trailing willow boughs, I see your face, I hear your voice and the bird singing as we pass the osier bed. What are you whispering? Sorrow, sorrow. Joy, joy. Woven together, like reeds in moonlight.”

Caspar David Friedrich, Mondaufgang am Meer, 1822, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, frontispiece, 1638 edition

Albrecht Dürer, Melancholia, 1514, engraving

Alberto Giacometti, Cube, 1933/34

Girl on a Swing, photographer unknown

Donating = Loving

Please support the arts! You can purchase my music and spoken word – which I hope you will. If you find joy and inspiration in my words, and would like to provide additional support, please be lovely and consider a donation of your choosing – from anywhere between a coffee and a nice dinner. It will be deeply appreciated.

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