In January of 2015, I stumbled across an article on the internet claiming that 36 shared questions, plus a four-minute period of looking into one another’s eyes, could make any two people fall in love. The article even claimed that this had resulted in at least one marriage, and had a scientific study to back it up! What I found when I read the article and the accompanying 36 questions was much more than pseudo-scientific hokum. The questions themselves tell a captivating story about the person who answers them.
The story these questions tell is the story of this piece. Emily Gradowski recorded the voice part, and chose to answer some of the very personal and difficult questions contained in the 36 with absolute honesty. Because of her honesty, whatever story I thought I might be telling in this piece quickly changed and became the story that Emily tells about her personal struggle with insecurity and loneliness. But this story isn’t just about rejection and insecurity and loneliness. Despite what the world has told Emily about her value, despite her rejection, Emily still has hope. She still believes that the person who deserves her is out there. Despite the poison that others grew in her, she came to a place of strength and confidence. The story that Emily tells is one of her own strength as tempered by rejection, her own confidence as tempered by cruelty, and her own optimism as tempered by loneliness.
As I wrote the music for Love Story, I managed to find a copy the study by Arthur Aaron that spawned all of this. It turns out that love was never intended to be a part of the equation; Aaron merely wanted a method through which he could quickly generate controlled levels of intimacy between two experimental subjects. The idea that these questions do anything other than create intimacy is apocryphal, made up by the hysteria of the internet. Also missing from Aaron’s work is the four minutes of staring into one another’s eyes. I chose to leave the musical representation of those four minutes in the work because, in as much as Aaron’s 36 questions can teach us about someone else, the necessity of contemplating one image, one sound, one idea for an extended period of time teaches us something about ourselves. However, after reading Aaron’s study, the tone of the piece became more about intimacy than about love. Why then, is the piece still called “Love Story?” The story that this work tells is the one through which Emily came to love herself. That story is one we can all tell.
Lastly, I would like to thank Emily Gradowski for her deep honesty, help, and inspiration in the creation of this work.
– Stephen Bailey
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/30235101@N06/3344044448