Trails Bright Phantoms
string quartet

premiered by Mivos Quartet
May 2, 2019
McClintock Recital Hall, 
Evanston, IL

In 2015, musician Nick Cave’s son Arthur died suddenly at age 15. Below is an excerpt from Cave’s response to a fan’s letter asking whether he and his wife felt that Arthur was still somehow in contact with them.

… Dread grief trails bright phantoms in its wake. These spirits are ideas, essentially. They are our stunned imaginations reawakening after the calamity. Like ideas, these spirits speak of possibility. Follow your ideas because on the other side of the idea is change and growth and redemption. Create your spirits. Call to them. Will them alive. Speak to them. It is their impossible and ghostly hands that draw us back to the world from which we were jettisoned; better now and unimaginably changed.

In the wake of a traumatic or negative experience, we often engage in counterfactual thinking in which we imagine how changes in our own behavior might have resulted in a different outcome. Although this can seem futile (dwelling on the past cannot change it), counterfactuals can provide an opportunity to consider how we can change our future behavior in order to avoid negative outcomes.

Each time we recall a memory, that memory is rewritten. This allows imperfections in the recollection to be incorporated into the new version of that memory. The more we recall a memory, the more opportunities that memory has to be corrupted so that our most-frequently revisited memories can also become our most-heavily revised.

My piece Trails Bright Phantoms explores these ideas of imagined alternate outcomes and rewritten memories, dwelling on a musical object as its wake takes different forms across repeated iterations.

Score available upon request.