In an analysis of the music from the opening scene for the third act of Ravel’s ballet Daphnis et Chloé, there have been noted similarities with the popular song On A Clear Day. Whether this is coincidence or appropriation is difficult to say, since the use of minor sixth chord progressions was popular among French impressionist composers and has a recognizable and poignant sound.
Composed by Burton Lane with lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, the full title of the song is On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. It is from the Broadway musical of the same name that opened in October 1965 for 280 performances. Although the production was reviewed by critics as difficult and cumbersome, the musical score was well received.
The story revolves around a psychiatrist who hypnotises one of his female patients seeking assistance for smoking cessation. He falls in love with an 18th century entity from a previous life named Melinda Wells who emerges during the sessions. Following significant skepticism, the psychiatrist comes to believe in reincarnation, and tries to find a way to meet with the future version of himself to find the future version of Melinda. His patient is angered by her exploitation, and although she tries to leave him, they are both convinced of an unlimited future, thus the final song On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.
The most popular version of the story is from the 1970 film version directed by Vincente Minnelli starring Barbra Streisand, and the song has been performed among a large number of artists. A revised Broadway production in November 2011 made some interesting modern changes from the plot of the original, where the patient is a gay florist who was a female jazz singer named Melinda in a former life, who falls in love with the psychiatrist.
My own version of the song is composed using a vocoder for the lyrics, and brings to mind the robotic entities of the past such as the HAL computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is possible to envision the story of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever as someone falling in love with technology, and trying to find a way to meet with the future version of himself. Indeed, a story based in optimism that could become a Black Mirror episode.
On That Clear Day