Ghost Town Sketches


Ghost Town Sketches was composed in 1993 at the request of English hornist Tamara Field, and was premiered in Boston in 1994. It has been recorded by members of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble for an upcoming release on the MMC recording label. The following quote by Edward Abbey from The Brave Cowboy served as inspiration:


There is a valley in the West where
phantoms brood and mourn,
pale phantoms dying of nostalgia and bitterness.
You can hear them, shivering and chattering
among the leaves of the old dry mortal cottonwoods
down by the river...whispering and moaning
and hissing with the wind...whining their past away
with the wild dove and the mockingbird... and you
may see one, touch one, in the silences and space
and mute terror of the desert.

I have incorporated some cowboy songs taken from the collection by Alan Lomax to help create a ghostly western mood.

I was able to visit several ghost towns as a child, and some of the less commercial ones made quite an impression on me. Each movement is intended to capture the haunted memories of a particular date and time (around a holiday, or in the case of III, an equinox) in a different ghost town.

I. October 31st, 1888, midnight
II. February 14th, 1888, afternoon
III. July 4th, 1889, noon
IV. March 21st, 1852, daybreak
V. November 25th, 1889, sundown
VI. December 24th, 1892, 5:38 p.m.

Selected performances of Ghost Town Sketches

Premiere: October 9, 1994, Sad Trio, Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert Series,
Deerfield, MI.

September 23, 1995, Sad Trio, First Presbyterian Church Chamber Music Series,
Crystal Falls, MI.

August 23, 1995, Sad Trio, Newton School of Music, Boston.

November 17, 1995, Triptych, Society of Composers Region III Conference, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA. (also broadcast on WITF: Harrisburg).

June 11-13, 2004: David Peck, clarinet, Edith Orloff, piano and Roxanna Patterson, viola, at the Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival, Santa Barbara, CA.

October 8, 2011, Trio Clavino, Barshinger Center, Sound Horizons Series, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA.

© John Carbon 2015