The songs comprising my October 2020 release, Ghosts of Our Former Selves, including the two presented here, were deliberately composed in a confessional mode. They form a forty-minute sonic memoir that draws on everything I have spent my six-plus decades learning as a composer of contemporary classical music (especially computer music) with deep roots in jazz and popular music traditions. The vastly different musical worlds I present are not meant to be nostalgic, nor are they intended as recreations of music from our past. They are refracted musical memories, recombined in novel ways and witnessed at a distance, as I experience them now—all these years later.
The songs are my response to the deaths of my parents, followed by the death of my mentor, all converging with the arrival of what—with a bit of luck, given my not-so-distant serious illness—will be a few more decades of life. With “Ghosts of Armageddon,” I have added a generous helping of anger toward humankind’s inexplicable willingness to accept hate and to engage in an unwinnable game of chicken with mass extinction.
The project was composed over the past year, but as I was writing and producing the final songs, the pandemic hit, intensifying and reframing the entire project. Artists are always responding to world events in highly personal ways, and since the year 2020 is our apocalypse, how can we turn away? Apocalypse, it turns out, is ancient Greek for “an unveiling.” We know in our hearts, during this dark time full of despair, that unveiling must be the order of the day, that we must seek what is true and at the core of our practice. I am sharing this piece now with that recognition.
Composers cannot predict what it means to send music out into the world. But even in the most fraught times,
send it out we must, in the hope that we just might be sharing a perspective that makes some small,
Ghosts of Armageddon
I waded deep into the river,
I caught my finger on a sliver.
The blood ran free,
there’s only so much anger, see
I can’t stop grieving.
The world is burning all around me.
Your bullshit ceases to astound me.
Five hundred million burned alive,
there’s no way anyone is watching.
Power-hungry ghosts of macho senators
spew their toxic waste before our eyes.
Self-important ghosts of so-called pastors
cast their stones and pray for us to die.
Sometimes a golf club is a weapon
and guns are never out of season.
The evil bastards own them all,
our kids keep running duck and cover.
I really shouldn’t be so bitter,
it’s just a scratch he never hit her.
What’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with me,
another day, are we so stupid? Really?
The future’s bleak and getting bleaker.
The fucker’s voice blares from the speaker.
It doesn’t matter where he sits,
he’s just a steaming piece of…
Power-hungry ghosts of macho presidents
spew their toxic hate into our minds.
Self-important priests and so-called saviors
send their drones and pray for us…
Power-hungry ghosts of Armageddon
spew their lies and call for us to die.
Self-deluded evil politicians
spread their fear and pray for us to die.
Ghosts of Our Former Selves
How the picture floats on by
moving out of frame forever
and dissolves before our eyes
with an answer that means never.
There’s a bit of blood and bone
then the time we get together
where you think that you have a home
and a hardship that you can weather.
But somehow you can’t get by
and moving on is hard
with so many tear-filled eyes
and your kids out in the yard.
So you bury what is done
find a place up on the shelf
and reflect on what’s to come
with the ghosts of your former selves.
Eric Chasalow, PhD, is the dean of the Graduate School, Irving G. Fine Professor of Music, and director of BEAMS, the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio at Brandeis University, where he has taught since 1990. He is especially well known for works that combine instruments with electronic sound but has collaborated with other musicians and artists to create a wide range of projects. The Eric Chasalow collection in the Library of Congress was established in 2009.
- Email: Chasalow@brandeis.edu
- Website: www.ericchasalow.com
- Spotify: Eric Chasalow
- Youtube: Eric Chasalow
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