Thoughts & Prayers (2018)

The phrase “thoughts and prayers” has, arguably, lost much of its meaning in the American lexicon as it has become somewhat of an automatic response to tragic events, mass shootings in particular. In the last several months, the phrase’s usage (according to data from Google Trends) spikes in the immediate aftermath of the shootings that have become all too commonplace. For many, the phrase represents a lack of willingness to do anything else, a meaningless answer to a problem that requires more action. From political cartoons to satirical computer games, the extent to which “thoughts and prayers” has lost its value is readily apparent.

One option I had as a composer was to write a scathing, dark piece, ridiculing the apparent indifference and complacency. But a part of me knew that I didn’t really have the appetite for doing that for this piece. Another part of me knew that the people who respond to these and other tragedies with their “thoughts and prayers” most often do so with sincerity; to ridicule the phrase would in some way also be to question their earnestness.

Instead, my goal in writing the piece became more of a mission to restore some meaning to the phrase, and also to acknowledge the many other contexts in which people sincerely offer their thoughts and prayers, both to people they care deeply about and also to strangers with whom they empathize. In the midst of finishing this piece, I spoke with someone confronting her own health challenges, and she reminded me of the important role that thoughts and prayers can have in recovering. This interaction really helped the piece make more sense to me, and in some ways it also justified for me the tone that I ended up taking.

The music in Thoughts & Prayers is in itself my own thoughts and prayers, though they are hard to put into words and to attempt to do so would take something away from the composition. The music is heartfelt, serious but hopeful, urgent but reflective.