The Young Son, Part 7

Searching for an ending point

That’s the piano that I grew up practicing on, where my mother would stand beside me and turn pages. It used to belong to her mother and father — you can see them playing a duet in the picture above the piano. Her brother, Mark Ralph, had an imaginary friend when they were small who lived under this piano and would “dispense beer” whenever you pressed the pedals.

Her father, Kenneth Ralph, my grandfather, was a scientist who explored the arctic circle in the 1930s. He had a printing press and a gun collection, and he played the french horn, and he loved Mozart and hated Tchaikovsky, and, towards the end of his life, he suffered a stroke which limited his vocabulary to a single word: “five.”

I’m so lucky to have had this culture in my life. I’ve already talked about how formative the Cathedral of All Saints choir was to me as a kid, but the critical and aesthetically saturated culture I encountered there was already in my background, in retrospect. My Mom once said, “I would have never married your father if I had known he didn’t like peaches.” That is an aesthetic statement. It’s kind of a joke, but the conviction is real.

Work-Web (2017)

It took me forever to figure out how to end this piece, but ultimately I chose to keep it in the regressive dream-state found at the end of the fifth movement, the young son.

It ends with a game-piece for a child. First, you close your eyes. Then, your partner plays a chord and traces a shape on the back of your hand. The particular shape indicates a way of arpeggiating the chord. Then, you find the same chord — no looking! only by touch — and play it with the right shape applied.


Finally, I want to again thank everyone who helped me put this together. Thank you to my parents and my sister for all the support, and for lugging an enormous projection screen down from Albany. Thank you to the wonderful performers — Meaghan Burke, Ellery Trafford, Charlotte Mundy, Marina Kifferstein, Laura Cocks, Jeff Gavett, Liam Kinson, and Andy Kozar — and for all your engaged and professional work on this piece. Thank you to Tony ‘Potato’ Cacace for letting me crash on your couch whenever I’m in the city for all these years. Thank you to Jacob Sachs-Mishalanie and Zeno Pittarelli for recording and mixing everything and being real cute. Thank you to Matt Sandahl for all the hours of conversation and for all the engaged feedback — I’m tempted to say I couldn’t have written this without you, but I don’t know, I might have been able to pull it off. And thank you especially to the brilliant and beautiful Carly Charles, for doing the lighting last minute, and for all your feedback, and moral support, and putting-up-with, and love.