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Writing About Music (Honors 345A)

This guide features essays written by students as part of the class Writing About Music (Honors 345A, Fall 2018).

Dear Evan Hansen (Alec Walter)

So Big/So Small,” from the Broadway Musical, Dear Evan Hansen
 
Dear Evan Hansen is heartbreaking. I haven’t even seen it yet, but every time I listen to the soundtrack, I get chills. It spans from depression and suicide to divorce and abandonment. Of all the songs, “So Big/So Small” has come to have the biggest impact on me recently, mostly because of its meaning and emotion, but also due to the incredible musicality. 
 
Throughout the musical, Evan Hansen struggles with social anxiety. In every moment, it’s painfully obvious how hard it is for Evan to just survive in social situations. Hearing him struggle through his world is heartening, but the complexity of the story makes it just as beautiful to experience. After the disastrous events in the play, Evan has hit rock bottom; he feels alone, abandoned by his father and his friends. “So Big/So Small” is Evan’s mom’s last-ditch effort to comfort her broken son. As Evan and she weep, she goes through the story of his father’s flight. “The house felt so big/and I felt so small”—it felt like too much for her to handle alone. Halfway through the song, Evan’s mom lets it all out. “And I knew there would be space I couldn’t fill, and I knew I’d come up short a million different ways… and I did… and I do… and I will…” She did the absolute best she could, even though she knew it couldn’t ever be enough. It’s heroic, it’s tragic, and for me it sums up the atmosphere of the whole musical. The emotions of depression, divorce, and death are complex. There’s no clear solution. This song in the context of the musical is a perfect concluding song for such a tragic story. 
 
In the last couple months, this song has come to mean even more to me. When my mom and I were making the drive to college, I convinced her to listen to the entire Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack with me. Although the tears swelled at points throughout the whole musical, my mom and I looked at one another during “So Big/So Small” and both started crying. Hearing the Evan’s mom looking back on Evan’s development with shame, pride, and love, and realizing that I was about to really be too old to be my mom’s little boy. Looking forward and realizing that I would see my parents only a few times a year, and that my house wouldn’t feel like home soon. And yet, as Evan’s mom says she’ll be there for him, “when it all feels so big/til it all feels so small,” the tears started again. Wow, I love my mom a lot. I love this song.

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