STLT#50, When Darkness Nears

An ode to the space between.

When darkness nears and embers die,
the wind in trees a distant sigh,
the end of day like a lover’s voice nearby.

The night draws close, a fond embrace;
the heart then slows its frantic pace,
and fear drifts off as a calm breath takes its place.

The cradle of a velvet wing,
it holds us in its gentle swing,
and peace slips in with the songs our dreams will sing.

The end of day, the passing year,
the rush of time need cause no fear,
we’ll love the night and its myst’ry now so near.

I love a 5/4 time signature*. To me, there is a touch of the melancholy in 5/4 – not quite so regular as common time, not quite so lilting as a waltz. Something languid and rushing all at once. Something not quite calm, something not quite energized. The 5/4 time signature lives in the paradox. It lives in the space between, much like the twilight the lyrics describe.

Now one brief quibble: For the most part, this hymn is set there, and it works. But to make the final line of each verse work correctly, there’s a 4/4 measure, then a 7/4, and then we’re back to our mysterious 5/4. To be honest, that shift makes it hard to sing – baffling to many congregations, I suspect. But it does work, in the scope of the piece.

But then the lyrics: They’re laden with the paradox of twilight, thus meaning that the lyrics and the music fit. If this had been set to a more regular tune, it would maybe be easier to sing but it wouldn’t evoke the mystery and melancholy that the lyrics hold. As it is set, the secrets of the words come forth and leaves their impressions on the heart.

Well met.

*Other songs in 5/4 include “Everything’s Alright” (Jesus Christ Superstar) and “Nothing Like You’ve Ever Known” (Song and Dance) by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the “Theme from Mission Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin, “Seven Days” by Sting, and of course “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck.

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