Love Letters from the Lost Cause



Love Letters from the Lost Cause is my third piano trio, composed in the fall months of 2012, for violinist Michael Jamanis, ‘cellist Sara Male and pianist Steven Graff. While composing this piece I was inspired by images of haunted roads in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This year is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and In particular I was thinking of the ghosts I’ve seen of Civil War soldiers repetitively crossing some of the dirt roads on the battlefield at dawn and dusk.  While composing, I was imagining a composite of love letters written by soldiers recounting their encampment experiences in which lanterns created ghostly halos around music making and dancing that was undoubtedly designed to fend off the fear of impending battle. I also imagined some soldiers writing to those at home expressing hope, but all too often questioning their own motives for fighting in what so many were calling the “Great Lost Cause.”

Three contrasting sections, played without pause, reflect these persistent images. The first section, marked “haunted, melancholy,” explores the feelings of a particular soldier thinking of home as night falls. The music becomes warmer and more expansive before turning eerie as the soldier sees spectral versions of his dead comrades crossing the empty dirt road in front of him, over and over, trapped in a time loop of potent and melancholy memory. The middle section of the trio is a macabre dance. The ghost-like figures drink and dance in the campfires and become ghoulish phantasms. Witnessing the supernatural power of these lost souls, the soldier’s mood suddenly changes to one of pain and grief ending in resignation. Finally, with renewed hope, the third section becomes “expansively amorous,” as the soldier imagines returning home, finally released from what has become a living hell. While expressing his optimism in a love letter he writes, his mood finally returns to a more autumnal, solemn tone, as he reflects upon all that has been-and will be- lost, including his beloved comrades who have been fighting by his side.

Selected Performances

January 13, 2013: Premiere of Love Letters from the Lost Cause (piano trio) by Michael Jamanis, violin, Sara Male, violoncello and Steven Graff, piano, Music at Mid-Month, Lititz Chrurch of the Brethren, Lititz, PA.

© John Carbon 2015