Last Ghost In the House

Last Ghost in the House

It was too painful to say goodbye,
and with barely a glance at the place,
the empty house, well,
empty except for one thing,
you drove away.

The furniture and dishes,
pictures of the lake, and silver dollars
distributed evenly,
as carefully as years ago
M&M's divided amid eager delight.

All those seasons we spent,
our footfalls, running, laughing,
the endless potential of summer became
autumns of long shadows and raked leaves,
became shorter still,
the city, frozen,
until the icy darkness melted into
the embrace of a bright and muddy spring,
a house thawed, ready to do it all again.

All I had learned beneath that roof,
hours spent at the piano in repetition,
trying to break through
my technical limitations,
trying to achieve knowledge
I too-eagerly sought,
a common thread though
my youthful victories and tragedies,
my philosophical and romantic awakening
to despair and resignation,
my stunted prayers and most secret,
darkest thoughts, all took place
in just a few small square rooms.

All the laughter and tears
smeared into the wallpaper,
itself a fraught choice,
now evaporated by time,
withered from neglect.
anger, faded,
and fantasies, lost
at the bottom of
poorly hidden
plastic liquor bottles.

How welcome is the silence,
the weight of inhabitants lifted,
after decades of intersecting lives,
complex and visceral,
full of mistakes,
and love.

Everything vanished
in a matter of days,
and the house settled,
prepared to become
a memory for everyone.

Even before you left,
you started to forget
how the floorboards creaked
by the phone desk,
the bright blue wall hidden shamefully
beneath beige and pink folk-art bouquets,
the lonely stillness of late afternoon,
filled only by the ticking of the clock,
until it, too, yielded to time
it could no longer keep.

Now, at this last interstitial moment,
I am the last ghost in the house,
moving through each room, like the air,
the silence vibrating with the
thinness of the veil,
the last echoes fading into
freshly painted corners.
Because this ghost is a being,
very much alive. The dead
leave behind only memories and regrets,
and that is what haunts the living.

Maybe I do believe
in reincarnation, of a sort.
We cannot become a new thing
until we cease to be all that we were,
our old life stripped to the studs,
tenets of familiarity, but underneath,
new, full of strangers
cheerfully unaware of the memories
that lingered in the walls.

A child looks upon a house
for the first time,
possibly unable to see
its former life,
then again,
a faint,

Last Ghost Premiere Announcement

I realize we are nearly a month an a half into the year, but I am still reeling from a pretty intense six weeks. Just before New Years, Joy Music House took on the project The Last Black Man in San Francisco, and I had the pleasure of orchestrating Emile Mosseri’s beautiful score. He’s a very talented composer and a really wonderful guy. We had recording sessions that entire week, including a brass quartet on New Year’s Day and a remote string session the day after. The film was very well received at its Sundance premiere.

I had the opportunity to participate in the Helix Collective’s new series Pulling Back the Curtain, a concert featuring the music of the assistants, the people behind the scenes who often assist other composers, but don’t often have the same opportunities to share their music. I have spent the last couple of years serving on the score production teams for several composers, which earned me the consideration.

The score and parts were due in mid February, which only gave me about three weeks to either rearrange an older work, or compose a new 10-minute piece for chamber orchestra. Of course I wanted to challenge myself to write something new.

But the blank page is hard enough when I have inspiration to propel me forward. Without it, it is more challenging. I like parameters, a visual or a story of any kind. Limitations can be illuminating, provide guidance. It was helpful knowing that I had a palette of nine players: solo violin, viola, cello, bass, piano, marimba, flute, clarinet and horn.

In mid January, I went to northeastern Nevada for a couple of weeks to see my dad. He lives in the high desert which was covered in snow and was seeing nightly lows of about 10 Fahrenheit degrees. He decided it was time to move to a retirement community, to downsize. He had been living in the house alone since my mom passed away in 2014, and at 93, it had become overwhelming. He used to take care of everything, but no longer had the same energy. So my brother and sister and I spent the weekend moving him and all his necessities, and cleaning out the house, the place we all grew up.

The last day before I came back to sunny—rather, rainy, but still a hell of a lot warmer—Los Angeles, I was in the nearly empty house alone ruminating on its 40-plus-year-history in our family. And even though it hasn’t been my home for more than twenty years, being there still fills my brain with intimate nostalgia. I know this place so well, and to see it empty… it was the end of something deeply personal for me.

I started writing a poem to capture the gamut of emotions, and as my rambling started to come together, I began to write the music. In four short sections, I sought to understand everything I felt in that last night: a seemingly bottomless well of grief, loneliness and cynicism, but also moments of wonder and joy, gratitude and happiness, even euphoria. I relived many wonderful memories flipping through pictures, and seeing time pass quickly. On that last night when all the lights were out, I moved through the echoey space, and mused to myself that I was the only thing haunting this place now.

And that is what Last Ghost in the House is about: a saying goodbye, of a sort.

The piece will premiere March 16, 2019 at 7PM at the Barnsdall Park Theatre. More info about the concert is available here, and tickets are available here.

I will be posting more about this, including the poem, very soon.