2023 – for bass clarinet and musical cameos (vibraphone, cello, piano, soprano), fixed electronics – 60:00
World Premiere: Jun 11, 2023, The Registry Theatre, Kitchener, Canada
Anatomy of the Recovering Brain is an extended single-movement musical work focused on bringing awareness to the invisible health impacts and struggles of having a brain injury. The concept for this piece was suggested to me by bass clarinetist, Kathryn Ladano, a brain injury survivor herself. After Kathryn shared with me the many life challenges she has faced, I was motivated by the idea that a composition like this could be a way to share the stories of other brain injury survivors.
When listening to this composition, you will not hear details of how survivors received their injuries. Instead, I wanted the piece to focus on the challenges that survivors faced, some for many months and years following their injury. Also, equally important was to share how survivors were succeeding in managing or even overcoming the challenges their injury created in their lives. It’s for this reason that I consciously created an ambient and uplifting quality for the overall tone.
After hearing the testimonials of countless survivors, I settled on featuring the voices of 6 brain injury survivors within the fixed electronics part. Stories from Kathryn, Russell, Paul, Melanie, Lucy and Jeffrey are isolated in 10-minute sections within the 60-minute piece. They all have their own unique experiences, perspectives and personalities. For that reason, I wanted each person (and section) to be represented by a unique musical approach to support who they are and their perspectives on life and healing.
While the bass clarinet is a constant live presence throughout the composition, you will also see/hear other musicians wander in and out the piece for brief cameos. This includes a vibraphonist, cellist, pianist and soprano. Their poignant presence symbolizes the important people in our lives that are there to support us during the difficult times on our road to recovery.
Anatomy of the Recovering Brain is more than just a music composition. I also see it as an informative documentary, and more importantly, a community-engaged project. In composing this piece, I was emotionally moved by the many perspectives of these survivors who describe their challenges and successes in overcoming the prolonged debilitating hardships of their brain injuries. My hope is that listeners who have suffered a brain injury will get a sense of comfort that they are not alone on their road to rehabilitation when listening to the piece. I also hope that the music will provide an enlightening exposé for those who have not battled a brain injury, motivating them to advocate for more awareness and services for those who have gone through this and create a level of understanding for their acquaintances who might be invisibly suffering.
Most importantly, this is a work celebrating personal empowerment and overcoming any obstacle life throws at you. As Jeffrey repeats at the end of the piece, “This is who I am. I define my future”.
I dedicate this composition to all brain injury survivors, including my friend, Kathryn Ladano, for her creativity, passion, bravery and perseverance in championing this work. ❤️
– Frank Horvat
Many thanks to the Ontario Brain Injury Association and the Brain Injury Association of Waterloo-Wellington for their support in the creation of this work, including securing the audio testimonials of brain injury survivors.