Doris Day was one of the idols of my youth. I remember laughing to tears watching her comedies. However, what mostly fascinated me about her was her velvety voice. I dreamed of being able to recreate her shimmering sound, the seductive quality of her voice enchanted me. A great jazz interpreter and singer, the general public mainly knew her as the girl next door, a role which she often embraced in the many romantic comedies she was featured during the 50s and 60s. Que Sera, Sera gave her international stardom status and made her a Hollywood legend. Based on the soundtrack of the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Man Who Knew Too Much, it is a cheerful song with deceivingly simplistic lyrics. In a touching NPR interview given to the formidable Terry Gross for her 88th birthday in 2012, after Terry Gross confessed her dislike of the song, Doris Day said, “It isn’t the kind of song that I like to sing”. Listen to the interview here ✨ I am in complete agreement with both Terri Gross and Doris Day. The song was not one of my favorites in her repertoire.
However, one of my preferred creative outlets throughout the years has been to revisit and transform pre-existing repertoire. I believe that some songs have lyrics of hidden power and depth. As an archeologist of emotions I want to give them back the appropriate musical mood through a reharmonization that reinstates their “true meaning” often buried in a couple of catchy crowd pleasing chords. I have engaged in this fun activity throughout the years solely for my own enjoyment and pleasure. Till now…
Que Sera, Sera is a phonetic spelling (for English speakers) of the popular Italian phrase “che sarà, sarà” which means exactly “whatever will be will be”. The authors borrowed its spelling from the more user-friendly Spanish version QUE, easier to understand phonetically compared to the Italian CHE. (CH in Italian is pronounced K)
I wanted to reinvent this song by emphasizing the element of uncertainty present throughout the lyrics and giving the harmony a fatalistic je ne se qua. The following is an analysis of the different sections. However, you should know that I didn’t think in analytical terms when I made the arrangement. I simply gave shape to a sound idea. I translated into music my sentiments about this song.
My arrangement begins with a short vamp in G major alternating the tonic and dominant to the tonic and sharp 5. This uncertainty between the sense of rest of the perfect 5th and the unsettling quality of the sharp 5th sets up the mood from the start with a sense of instability. Listen to the example below.
On the highly debatable lyrics “will I be pretty, will I be rich?” I have chosen an ascending chord that becomes progressively musically uncertain from D 7 to D7b9, D79, D7#9, and D13#11b9 on the words “will I be rich?” This is the magic of music. You can literally translate a question into sound by choosing a specific harmonic color. Listen to the example below.
For the refrain on the words “que sera, sera, whatever will be will be” I have used a descending pattern of second inversion triads. This descending pattern represents the questions that we all ask ourselves in the course of our life. After all, none of us know what will become of us, what we will become as we grow up, whether we will be beautiful or rich. Too bad that the authors did not contemplate deeper and less stereotypical questions even if our society sets these as the standards of success. I would like to suggest alternative questions… Will we be able to manifest our dreams, will we be able to continue pursuing them despite disappointments and hard times hopefully understanding that the path itself is the matter they are made of? Will we be able to surrender to life by relying on its merciful, creative, and generative embrace? Example below.
The ending is a passionate reiteration of Que sera sera…Listen below
I hope that, as Doris Day hears my version from up there, she will approve with a smile.
Have a good listening experience. You will find the link for the single and for the presale of the album here. Thank you for supporting my music.