BWTSE: Behind-the-Story

So today, I’m going to talk about some of the story behind “Beautiful World
(Through Sorrowful Eyes)”, or BWTSE for short. Just try to bear with me, as I’ll
do my best. I’ll also get the disclaimer out of the way: I should mention that
the first topic behind this song isn’t the most cheerful, as it deals with death.
Anyone who wants to keep reading, but wanting to skip the first part, just
scroll down and look for:

***SAFE***
  Now then… This piece is inspired by suicide and suicidal thinking (want to
mention right now before going on that I’m NOT the suicidal one). So, let’s
dive into it…
Back when I was in high school, there was another teen just
a year younger than I was. For this story, I’ll call him Andy (I’m not going to
disclose his real name). Andy was one of the first people to greet me when I
first moved to Lake Geneva, WI. This was senior year, so it’s not like I was a
little kid moving to a new district. Actually, I was still attending the same
school district, just living in a different town. But still, he was very friendly, and
on most days, my bus buddy. I came to know and like him, and always
welcomed his presence. And it showed on his side, as every-time we’d meet,
he would always have a genuine smile. From what he told me, he was having a
great life. He seemed to be enjoying what was going on. But apparently, he
wasn’t. Now that I look back on it though, I can think of a few instances where
he might have been lying, or other issues I should have pressed on to get
more details.
It was on an early Spring night that he carried out an act I never considered a
real possiblity. On that fateful night, he chose an abandoned small silo on his
property, and climbed to the inside top. There, he weaved his own noose, and
hung himself. His hungover father found him swaying early the next morning.
Before this, I had no experience in knowing any human who took their own life.
I do remember a time when I was in middle school (8th grade), a classmate
was run down by a drunk driver. But I was only acquainted with this boy, and
hardly knew anything beyond his name and address. I still felt the loss, and his
death wasn’t a factor the boy could control. Or the Mrs. Miller story. But again,
that was a natural death, not a suicide. This was probably the only time that I
can remember where I didn’t feel my usual self.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know how to feel. The initial reaction to
receiving the news was almost non-existent. I didn’t feel happy, or sad.
Grieved nor mad. If anything, the best I can describe it would be as a feeling of
emptiness. But soon enough, I started to feel a bit of anger. Not toward him,
but myself. At the time, I couldn’t help but blame myself for his untimely
demise. I’m not saying in terms of being responsible for the cause, but rather,
responsible for not preventing it. I felt like I could have stopped it. Things like:
Well, what if I was a better friend…‘ | ‘I should’ve been more involved and
active in his life‘ | ‘What if I said this to him…‘ started to pop into my head. I felt
terrible.
And to make things worse (for me), was that in his suicide letter, he had listed
me as someone who made him feel like a human-being. The reason for his
death decision was mostly due to major bullying at school, and drunken,
emotionally-abusing parents at home. But he never confided these things to
me. High school is big, and like said earlier, he was a year younger than
myself. I had no way of knowing that he was being bullied by his peers when
I’m in a different setting. But he found sanctuary talking to me, with the only
other being one of his cousins. That’s when thoughts like ‘What if I seemed
more trustworthy…‘ started to come in. Granted, these thoughts didn’t stay
too long. They only went for about a week. But boy, was that a long week.
Every time I actually think back on this subject, I can sense a small amount of
failure. The ghosts still seem to lurk around, despite having already come to
terms with it. It’s not like this memory comes up much though. Actually, it
never really came up until I decided to write this song. That’s not to say I
forgot about him. His cousin and I decided to wear small ribbons for the rest of
that year to honour him. They were green, as that was his favourite colour.
But I wore it beyond that time span. I don’t wear it anymore as it’s completely
worn out (it was a cheap ribbon), but I wore it everyday [even if it wasn’t
visible]). I do still keep it in my closet.
***SAFE***
Now another suicide-related story. But this one has a much better
outcome (hence the SAFE label). This is a rather recent event. It takes place
down where I currently reside, which is in Florida. I was actually visiting St.
Augustine, which is the oldest settlement in the United States (est. 1565).
Note that this fact has nothing to do with the story. But now you know.
Anyways, I was walking on a bridge that connects St. Augustine to Anastasia
Island at night, when I noticed something odd. The was a shadow behind one
of the small towers that are lined up along the bridge. But he was standing on the railing, just gazing out in the distance.
I assumed the worst.
Whether or not it was the smartest thing to do, I approached him. I casually
walked up to the spot that he was at, and tried the standard small talk. He
was pretty unresponsive for the first few minutes, but eventually stepped
down from the railing. I made a light-hearted joke saying he should join the
circus with the balance that he had on the railing (which was actually quite
impressive considering it was a metal railing, with the ocean wind blowing). He
seemed to relax a bit more, and we were able to actually start talking. I’ll skip
over the little stuff talked about, but I’ll give his story. He was feeling suicidal
due to recent life events. He was going through a divorce with his wife, and
learned that he wouldn’t have custody of his only son (who was roughly 4
years old). On top of that, he had been a recent victim of massive lay-offs at
his job. He wasn’t sure how much more he could take, and had seriously
considered to just end the misery. One thing led to another, and I eventually
told him to try his best. If anything, for his son. Even though he wouldn’t be
around 24/7 for his son, he could still make a difference. I ended up telling him
about my father.
My mother and (bio)father had split up when I was two. But that didn’t stop
Wayne (his name) from seeing me. For years, I always looked forward to
Sundays. I would always be waiting by the window, eagerly waiting to hear the
engine rumble of his Corvette to pull up into the parking lot (we lived in an
apartment at the time). And I always enjoyed our time together. We would
always start out by going to our favourite diner, where I would always get the
same thing (biscuits and gravy with a decent heaping of bacon). Which was
then downed by Barq’s Root-beer. Then I would just spend the day at his
house. I had a humongous collection of Hot-Wheels, and he would always be
willing to play along on my car map. I realize I’m digressing though, so I’ll stop
it at that. But there was many other good memories.
Anyways, all was fine until I was in 5th grade (it could’ve been 4th, but I told
the ex-suicide fellow 5th). It was just starting to get dark outside when a knock
came on the door. I had answered it as I was the closest, and was surprised to
see two adult figures I’ve never seen before. They were both wearing sharp-looking suits, and politely asked me to fetch my mom and step-dad. Once they saw the two strangers at the door, they quickly sent me and my two little brothers upstairs.

A few minutes later, I was called in, and was asked
questions that seemed rather silly at the time. ‘Are you happy here?‘ | ‘Are
your parents ever mean to you?‘ |’Does your father ever get drunk?‘ It was those kind of questions.

After they finished asking me questions, they sent me away, and called for
one of my little brothers. I was upstairs, but I assumed it was the same
questions. He soon returned, and my baby brother was sent down, and the
same procedure followed. After our interrogation session, we were left upstairs
for a little over an hour. Eventually, our parents called us down, and the
strangers were gone. It wasn’t until high school (freshman year) that I learned
the truth behind it. That incident had meant nothing to me as a kid at the
time, hence why I never thought about it. I found it more strange that I never
saw Wayne after those two strangers showed up. But, my parents had given
me an excuse for his absence, and even created a forged letter addressed to
me explaining his whereabouts. I was disappointed, but quickly moved on and
eventually forgot. But my Dad (not Wayne) told me that the two strangers
that night were from the Child Protection Agency.
Apparently Wayne had called them as a last resort, reporting abuse, as a way
to gain custody of me again. He also explained that the letter I had received
was fake. They had tried contacting Wayne the night after that happened, but
Wayne had also disappeared from the face of the earth. Back to the St.
Augustine guy, I had told him this story, and how it hurt to learn such a thing
about someone you grew so close too. And asked him to not do such a thing
to his son. Even if he were to visit once in a while, it’ll still make a difference
down the road. He was near tears at this point, and after a brief moment of
silence, he put his hand on my shoulder and thanked me (with his voice
wavering a bit). As far as I know, he’s still alive.
I guess in a way, I felt like I redeemed myself. After feeling like a failure with
Andy, this incident turned that around
 ***EXPLANATION***
Alright, so now that some backstory has been taken care of, let’s quickly delve
into how this was incorporated into the song.
Let’s talk about instrumentation. More specifically, the Celeste¹. I wanted to
find an instrument that I could use to represent death. But to not portray it in
a bad light. I ended up choosing the celesta, which I used to help depict death
as a heavenly ascent. The melody it plays was a hard one to create. I wanted
to create something that was saddening (so as to feel a loss), but not entirely
depressing. The second melody proved to be even more challenging, as I still
wanted a feeling of sadness, but wanted a hint of beauty and maybe hope
mixed in.
I tried to modulate the second theme briefly to something happier, to
represent my encounter with the Floridian man. I was tempted to just create a
new theme, but decided against it. The story still dealt with suicidal thoughts,
so the theme had to stay the same. But I’ll be honest, I completely suck at
modulation. I don’t know how well that little bit works (both aurally and
theoretically), but it’s all I got. I’m still trying to evolve my writing.
While also on the idea of themes, I tried to make both of them feel personal.
Something that’s more or less relateable. I wanted to compose something
where all a person has to do is put on the music, close their eyes, and let their
mind wonder and shift along with the music. Even without the prior
knowledge to the backstory. Whether or not I actually succeeded in
accomplishing that, I don’t know. It’s not exactly the easiest thing to
accurately gauge how it actually affected someone
¹This piece is a remaster of the original song written back in 2015. The orchestration has changed. The original celeste, kalimba, and solo viola were replaced by piano, vibraphone, and solo violin.
Down below is the original posted song:
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One thought on “BWTSE: Behind-the-Story

  1. Thanks for sharing this story Ben, suicide can be very hard to deal with and understand but you can never blame yourself, you were as good a friend as you could be.

    Like

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