I had met Maggie at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts several years earlier, and we had kept informed each other’s doings via Facebook, so I was overjoyed to watch Maggie’s success unfold in real time. In one of her earlier posts about the unexpected popularity of the poem, she included a link to “Good Bones”, and I immediately fell in love with it, as had so many others before me. I knew immediately that I needed to set her words to music. I reached out to ask her permission, and she happily granted it.
That August, mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen was a guest on my podcast, and we hit it off right away. After her interview, we chatted about the possibility of me writing something for her, and I suggested “Good Bones”.
Over the next year, I struggled to write this short song – a situation that is unusual for me, since I usually write quickly and easily. But words as beautiful as these deserved equally beautiful music, and Maggie had set a high bar. I composed in fits and starts, letting the song percolate in the back of my mind for months at a time, until finally, in September 2017 – 13 months after I first put pencil to paper – it was finished. And I hope I’ve lived up to Maggie’s words.
I’ve aimed for an emotional simplicity in my setting of the poem. When I read the poem aloud, my interpretation is full of anger and cynicism: “the world is at least fifty percent terrible”. But I made the conscious decision to exclude that from the music. Instead, I’ve chosen to emphasize the aspect of the poem that has captured the hearts of the world: hope.
This place could be beautiful, right?