An Album For My Wife: Transition (Part 2)

Welcome to the commentary of 1 + 1 = 1: The Courtship of Green & Blue.
This is Part 2, containing tracks 6-9 of the album, the the second section of the album "Transition" and the instrumental track "First Kiss". 
(Here are links to the IntroductionPrologue & Infatuation (Part 1), and Commitment & Epilogue (Part 3)
Here's how it will work. After an introduction from the original commentary (in italics), each song will be embedded so you can stream it. After each song will be:
Original commentary (in italics)
Present day commentary with various bits of history thrown in

Track 6: Bad Connection
I can’t get through to you
I’ve been waiting on the line for hours
I don’t know what else to do
I don’t think I can hold on much longer
We’ve got a bad connection, baby
Somewhere the wires are crossed
We’ve got a bad connection, baby
The signals nearly lost

Maybe if you’d just move
You’d get connection just fine
But there’s only so many times
I can try before I get tired

We’ve got a bad connection, baby
Somewhere the wires are crossed
We’ve got a bad connection, baby
The signals nearly lost

This is bad connection
And I can barely hear you
We’ve got a bad connection
There not letting us get through

We’ve got a bad connection, baby
Somewhere the wires are crossed
We’ve got a bad connection, baby
The signals nearly lost

We’ve got a bad connection 
But the wires they aren’t crossed
We’ve got a bad connection
And this time it’s my fault

Hold on. 
Just stay right there.

I am coming to you…

After the bliss of our "Infatuation" the difficulties in our relationship start to arise. The "Transition" section of the album goes from a place of deep hurt and frustration between my wife and I in "Bad Connection", to learning how to apologize to each other (even if begrudgingly so) in "70 X 7", to coming to accept and appreciate our differences in "Meet in the Middle".

Elisa and I came into our relationship as two very wounded souls. We both get hurt easily, internalizing it until it eats us alive from the inside. A big part of our growing up, and a good portion of the first 10 years of our marriage has been figuring out how to deal with getting hurt by the other person. It keeps happening over and over and will keep on happening, but in the beginning of our relationship we did not know how to deal with it. Whenever one of us would take on an offense it would immobilize us for a day or more.

"Bad Connection" is a metaphorical account of those times when we lost connection with each other. Sometimes in the song you even literally hear the "static" between us. We are on different frequencies, different lines altogether.

Who exactly is singing this song? Is it a passive aggressive boyfriend who is manipulating his girlfriend's hurt to get her to come back to him? Is it a co-dependent boyfriend who will do anything to make sure his girlfriend is not mad at him anymore, because more than anything he doesn't want her to be mad at him? Or, is the young man truly trying to reach out to her, to bring her back from the cacophony of her hurt? Is he singing to her because he wants is what is best for her, and he wants her complete healing, no matter how long he has to wait?

I would like to think all three versions of myself are singing this to Elisa, depending on how you read the song. At the very end of the song I'm singing "I'm sorry" to her ad infinitum. Depending on your interpretation you will either find my pleas cloying and pathetic or passionately noble. I can accept a range of interpretations.

Musically, "Bad Connection" is the sparsest song on the album until it eventually builds to a fever pitch of emotions. The vocalist feels numb. He is tired of fighting but knows he cannot give up. He has to keep trying to reach her, and yet he has become detached from his own emotions. Eventually the music starts to swirl around him, his emotions rising up in a last attempt to connect with his love.

Track 7: 70 X 7
I pick at you, you jab at me
[ I ] decide to hold my tongue
At least until the end of this song

I have my reasons so do you
But I’m tired of being right
At least I am tonight

70 X 7
Is enough for me…

I will not whine or complain
I will keep silent and let this moment pass away
How can I let this moment just pass away?...until

70 X 7
Is enough for me

Your silence says more
Than my babbling brings for
But someone has to break the tension
Why don’t we agree to a bi-partisan apology
And promise not to talk about this anymore?

Until…70 X 7…

Is enough for me…

"70 X 7" is a self-deprecating jab at my own (in)ability to say "I'm sorry" and mean it. It somewhat semi-sacrilegiously draws directly from Jesus' words in Matthew 18:21-22 when Peter came to him and asked "How many times am I to forgive my brother when he sins against me?" And Jesus answered him "You are to forgive seventy times seven." In this song I'm saying to God "Really? I have to forgive that many times? Oh, I suppose..."

This song is about the way we pick at each other, the way we find ways to hold grudges and eventually get our revenge upon each other, even if it takes months or years to do so. It is about not letting our offense go, or at least pretending to let it go only to bring it up again and rub it in their faces. And yet Jesus' call keeps coming back to challenge me: "70 x 7..." Eventually, like politicians, a couple has to come to a compromise, even to the point of truly committing to move past an awful situation. Choosing to forgive is choosing to not hold their offense over their heads, it is choosing not to define the person you supposedly love by the many ways they have hurt you. As much as I have matured in the last decade, I am continually caught up in the process of learning to forgive my wife. True forgiveness liberates her to be all God created her to be. The entirety of the song is a jab at my inability to forgive without strings attached. God have mercy on me.

The bridge of the song accounts for how I tend to keep talking and talking when we are in an argument and Elisa kind of shuts down, not talking at all. I tend to think that if my point is worth proving at all, it's worth proving in ten different ways, the same argument defended from 10 vantage points. I talk so much Elisa loses her train of though completely and all but shuts down. In other words, the "bad connection" of the previous song is often induced by my unwillingness to slow down and let her gather her thoughts.

Musically, the xylophone is again prominent and the percussion consists of tuned roto-toms. One of my ongoing goals on the album was to make the drums/percussion sound different in every song. There is an instrumental postlude to the song which falls into the same category as the other instrumentals on the album. Going along with the title of the song, the instrumental is in a 7/4 time signature and consists of repeated musical motifs overtop an ever shifting chord pattern strummed by a single acoustic guitar.

Track 8: Meet in the Middle

Now we’ve heard all the rumors
We’ve heard of all them silly wars
But babe you don’t believe them
It ain’t nothing we ain’t heard before

Now we’re starting life together
And we don’t wanna make no mistakes
So let’s sign this peace treaty
And make sure it all turns out OK

Well, all I know is I can’t see a lab coat
without thinking of you
And, all I know is I can’t see a Honda
without thinking you drive one too

[So] let’s meet in the middle, honey
It’s only place we’ll both be
Honey, let’s meet in the middle
There’s just something ‘bout symmetry

Now if I did as I pleased
You’d be picking up after me ‘til the end of time
It’s the ten-thousandth time
But I now that light bulb is gonna light

Well, all I know is someday soon we’ll be 
waking up together at noon
And, all I know is someday soon we’ll be 
singing the exact same tune
Let’s meet in the middle, honey
It’s only place we’ll both be
Honey, let’s meet in the middle
There’s just something ‘bout symmetry

I’ll just keep talking my talk
You just keep organizing around the clock
I know 9 months is a long time

But if we wait, it’ll turn out alright

Eventually, a relationship can come to a turning point where you actually begin to love the differences in the person you are with. In the "transition" stage of a relationship you find yourself falling out of love with your boyfriend/girlfriend due to all the conflicts and their seeming inadequacies, but if you persevere, you eventually fall right back in love again. All the points of contention can flip over and inverse on themselves, becoming points of admiration.

I am a bit obsessed with the concept of symmetry. I love the look of symmetry and the mathematical balance of symmetry in architecture, artwork compositions, and the way the universe is ordered. My idea with this song is that as we grow closer to becoming one, our differences begin to compliment each other and as a result form a symmetry. Our strengths and weaknesses begin to form an equilibrium. Our symmetry forms us into a kind of super-being ("with our powers combined, we can rule the world!").

The opening lyrics come from another quote of Jesus in Matthew chapter 24: "And you will hear of wars and rumor of wars." Jesus is talking about the end times and all the conflicts that will arise between the nations of the world. I have taken this quote and projected it onto the way people can often talk about marriage. Think of all the stereotypes people levy at the husband and wife relationship: Marriage is constant strife, with the man and woman locked in a constant battle for supremacy. Or in marriage the wife creates a spineless henpecked husband who follows her every bidding. Or the husband creates a dictatorship where the wife is expected to do everything for him and as a result he doesn't even know how to make his own cereal in the morning, but at least he reigns supreme. These are the wars and rumors of wars of marriage. When middle-aged people talk to dating and engaged people about the married life, these are the subtle insinuations that trail behind every piece of advice they give. A cynical "Good luck!...You're going to need it!" is the subtext beneath every restrained nod to a naive couple in love.

I wrote this song to Elisa telling her it didn't have to be this way for us, that despite how wounded we each were we could transcend the stereotype that marriage would be one continuous ongoing fight. Instead, I hoped to encourage us both that we could complete each other and learn to love each other not despite our differences but because of them. The song is also my commitment to her that we should "meet in the middle": I will change for her and she will change for me and together we will be stronger. Again I invoke the images of politics: let's sign a peace treaty between our two "nations" before we go any further.

The "lab coat" and "Honda" references have to do with Elisa being a physical therapist who often wore a lab coat at work and to the car she was driving at the time. Whenever I would see these things in everyday life I was reminded of her. Lab coats and Hondas were not previously part of my life, but now they were inextricably linked to someone I loved. The "9 months" referenced in the bridge is not about waiting for a baby to come during pregnancy, but instead to the duration of our coming engagement.

Musically, this is probably the most guitar heavy song on the album. Often there are 4-5 electric guitars overdubbed on top of each other, each of them playing some variation of the main guitar riff. The end of the song features a happy accident. I had cut out a small section of the song and had shifted all the instruments backwards a few seconds, but had mistakenly left one guitar back in the original spot. At the end of the song you hear that lone guitar sticking out, finishing the song all by himself.

Track 9: First Kiss

It starts out slow, but once we get started it is hard to stop.  

Many of the themes in this piece are taken from other melodic motifs of other pieces in the work.

What if people who were dating actually waited for a long time to kiss each other? What if kissing was reserved as a special act that signified an intent toward long term commitment? What if denying yourself immediate pleasure was looked on not as sexually repressive but as honorable and self-sacrificing? What if Christian young people who are committed to reserving sex until marriage realized that by default kissing almost always wants to lead into sex, and therefore decided to hardly kiss at all until they were married?

All crazy, backward-thinking thoughts, I know.

My wife and I did not kiss each other until over 2 years into our relationship. I had never kissed anyone romantically before (the stage-kiss in one of the high school musicals I was in does not count) and Elisa's previous relationship had had too much kissing in it. In other words, we were both wanting to take things slow. I am glad we did. As two people committed to not having sex before marriage, physically speaking there was not much more we could do besides kissing. Waiting to kiss meant we could focus more on the intricacies of our relationship. If we had been able to marry the situation would obviously have been different, but that was not where we were at.

Musically, the song is entirely a sound experiment. There is nothing programmatic to the music that "means" anything, other than the "slow" buildup a described in the original commentary above. The structure of the song is consciously basic, consisting of repeating G major and C major chords. It goes back and forth the entire song. From there I attempt to play as many riffs, motifs, scales, and arpeggios over the top of those two chords as possible. This song is slightly unique in that each instrument is manually faded in at the beginning and out at the end.

"Holding Hands" marks the advent of another "transition" in our relationship, from the more amorphous middle stage to committed engagement. This "Commitment" takes place in the third section of the album.

Here are links to the previous entries about the album:

The Story of 1 + 1 = 1: Introduction
Commitment & Epilogue (Part 3)

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