for voice and piano


This text refers to the butterfly effect, a phenomenon from chaos theory where small changes in initial conditions lead to drastic changes in outcome. The hanging chad refers to the incompletely punched Florida votes in the 2000 presidential election (which also used a butterfly ballot design causing aberrant votes in Palm Beach County). A social media post in 2015 about a black and gold dress, which some people saw as gold and white, went viral and is emblematic of the tech industry’s relentless push for higher user engagement regardless of community mental health or disinformation. The golden escalator refers to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential candidacy announcement. The line “swarm of still might bees” is borrowed from Saeed Jones’s Against Progeny. The reference to denseness and solidity is borrowed from Henry James’s advice on grief. Stigmergy is a way to spontaneously coordinate group behavior in response to an environmental stimulus, such as a pheromone or a public health announcement. Though not predicated on rational thought or direct communication, it can explain complex swarm behavior. In the end, the narrator does not escape surreality brought on by the butterfly effect and stigmergy; the text devolves into nonsense (“horse dewormer”) that reflects the current reality of people taking ivermectin, a horse dewormer, to treat COVID. This music is derivative of Bartok’s art songs.

I premiered this with Jonathan Smucker at the Center for New Music on December 18, 2021.

Sometimes when a butterfly beats its wings

A cyclone is born

A breath becomes a breeze becomes a gust becomes a gale becomes a mistral

Who’s to say the impetus

That brought us to this moment?

A hanging chad

A gold white, black blue dress

A golden escalator?

A swarm of should have beens

still might bees

Oh, to be dense, to be solid in the swarm

To reject stigmergy in this surreality

Sometimes when a butterfly beats its wings

A horse is dewormed

horse dewormer worm dehorser

horse wormer horse wormer