I genuinely never expected to find this sheet music. “Green Song” is a wistful, aching ballad from mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter’s 2001 album, “For the Stars,” her eclectic collaboration with Elvis Costello. I listened to “Green Song” often while I was in the throes of one particular romance. It was a relationship that altered the course of my life in extraordinary ways, though the course of the romance itself was… well, “altered, when it alteration” found. But since then, this music has held for me a particular longing.
The song begins with the lonely sighs of a cello. Indeed, “Green Song” was originally composed as an instrumental piece by cellist Svante Henryson. Elvis Costello wrote lyrics that only deepened the song’s feelings of melancholy, weaving together the sorrows and the wonderings of a widower and his late wife, a conversation that stretches across the impossible distance between them.
As long as I invoked only Elvis Costello or Anne Sofie von Otter in my searches for the sheet music, the queries proved fruitless. Recently I thought to look instead by the composer’s name: “Svante Henryson Green Song sheet music.” Finally — astonishingly — there it was.
When you purchase the score for “Green Song” on Svante Henryson’s official site, you get PDFs containing three separate arrangements of the song: one for solo cello, one for voice and cello, which is the closest to the version sung (and which can easily be adapted to the piano), and one for voice, cello, and additional instruments like harmonium, marimba, or guitar.
I feel grateful. Now I can — and often do — sit down at my piano and once again tap into a particular beautiful, meaningful heartache. Now, instead of cracking open with longing, my heart rises blissful. I am years away from that younger self; more than a decade. Not an impossible distance, exactly, but I cannot change what she did and what she did not know how to do.
There is an exquisite moment in “Green Song,” when Anne Sofie von Otter asks, “Are you still restless, or are you… serene?” Her voice soars into a wondrous, piercing, golden light on that last word: serene.
Years ago I was restless with longing. The answer that reverberates from me these days, in more moments now than not: I am… ringing true.