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,

Unraveling Night - Premiere Announcement

The last couple of months has found me working intensely on a piece for 4 oboes, 3 English horns and percussion, or as I affectionately referred to it, music for 7 oboes and gongs.

The piece first came about when my college cohort, Amanda Pochatko (pictured left), asked me if I would be interested in being part of an alumni recital performance at Boise State University. My involvement would be playing English horn, reprising a duet "Shepherds of Provence," and composing a new piece for an ensemble of our colleagues.

I set to work, with the premiere date set for April 5, 2016 at Boise State University's Recital Hall space in the Morrison Center for Performing Arts.

One of the first things I did was make a lot of reeds!

It was a lot of fun to explore the landscape of Unraveling Night, the title of which eluded me for days. Normally I start with a conceptual title that is very close to what is settled upon when it is finally ready to print. This time, I had a text document full of various words that described the piece, but it took days to label the right feeling.

I like what unraveling connotes: a physical or emotional act of breaking down, or eroding, but also solving a problem, and gaining an understanding. It is two things at once. And night is, well, night. The night we all know, fear, and embrace. Two things at once.

I really liked the idea of 7 players that also played percussion and that each had a part, which stemmed from my original idea to create a piece that had theatrical aspects to it, hence the original title "Ceremony," but it evolved into more than that. And while each instrument is in a way telling the story of what is happening, particularly in the first two movements, the lines of that idea blur in the third movement to tell a larger story.

Now I realize that it is strange that the piece unravels from a quasi atonal realm back to a strongly tonal ending, but I think that is the beauty of life. Sometimes the pendulum swings back the other way.

As the score came together, a poem developed, and I gave it the same title:


Bones wash up on a desert shore
fragments of suits, shells and glass,
and teeth squishing between our toes.
Peeling the mirage of your shirt
we waded into the ripples
of leaves and bark that dripped
from your elbows
up to lush watery atmospheres.
Bathed in the earth's salt,
awash in worms and tigers,
fingernails and carburators
churning in the dusty tide,
we were particles swept across a sea bed,
now a grave.
Half formed memories brining in my mouth,
bitter and powdery,
cinnamon and ajax.
Did we melt and scatter, becoming
tree roots that drank every boulder
to dust, or a flower
that defiantly grew
perched high on an ocean swell,
rising for eons until trembling plates
sent rocks splashing,
petals lost in an eddy of gravel and steel beams
swirling around the town?
We spit sand at each other, laughing.
The place we collected whales and horses
watching them dart through our fingers,
disappeared, as though it never were,
and we wondered what was real,
and what we invented.
We emerge onto the moon-dark beach
the night unraveling beneath us
basked amid oil stains in your driveway
and dried by beams of sunless oceans.

You can listen to excerpts of the piece here. This is me overdubbed for the purposes of a mockup: