Transfinite Photographs

for trumpet and piano


All recordings from the premier by Jessica Erbe (trumpet) and Hsiao-Ling Lin (piano).

This piece is a series of movements that tell brief stories of queer people Jessica Erbe (the trumpet player) knows. In some ways, these stories may seem disjunct, like they don’t fit together or these people couldn’t possibly belong in the same community. It’s true that queer communities spread wide and encompass many different experiences. This is what happens when you create community out of something that escapes definition.

This piece begins in the middle of a story. Queerness doesn’t have a beginning. We may try to retroactively impose meaning upon our past, illustrating the plot points that lead us to a particular moment, but our lives are not linear narratives and the queerness we wake up in might never make sense. This piece is not an attempt for us to understand why. There is no way to explain, to mitigate, to otherwise heal our collective trauma. We can try to make theories of how the cis hetero patriarchy began or operates but when you’re ripped from your lover at a bar, such theories do not protect you. Instead, you must surrender to the middle of the story, and imagine a different ending. Queerness, after all, is the dream of an unimaginable tomorrow.


i. “spun is more like it” (red)

This movement begins in the middle of a story - a queer boy high on meth, coming to the rawness of realization - an HIV diagnosis. “You have to break your own heart more than anyone ever has.”

“Being high is terrifying
So terrifying in fact
High is a generous term

Spun is more like it
Like the web of a black spider
With the red hourglass about to spend itself
I’ve spent myself

I can ignore my blood but I can’t stop thinking


ii. gender policing (orange)

This piece begins with the over-confident strut of middle school, affected with a dash of awkwardness. We try to follow this strut, but we cannot stay within what the environment is asking. It is in the open and expansive sections that the colors come through, the beauty of being oneself, but these sections are continuously interrupted.

you want to imagine
expansive expression
but the world intrudes.


iii. “i love you too” (yellow)

This is story of a couple driving to the airport, saying good-bye for winter break after a few months of dating. They both were wondering if it was too soon to say “I love you.” As they said good-bye, without prompting, she said “I love you too.” 

before you left, you said “i love you too.”
i don’t remember saying it first,
but i was thinking it the entire time.


iv. the garden gate (green)

This is about the beauty of light coming through the sanctuary of home, the comfort of what one couple built together, without what was sacrificed, without the friends lost, the visits from social workers assessing the couple’s fitness for adoption, the anxieties of telling their families.

we knew we could build a sanctuary,
but how would the world be to them?


v. where scripture meets bone (blue)

In the beginning, there is reverence, the ancient memory of sacred devotion. This memory is distorted by wounding messages, by the Church you always knew scorning you for love. This rift is heart-breaking. We don’t know what to believe, but there is comfort in uncertainty.

“If I open my skin - it is still there, within my bones.” 

The image of your faith is imprinted on you, twisted into something hateful. 

We welcome the cry of that rip, the insurmountable rift between what your bones know and what today’s priests are telling you. 

We come to reconciliation in unknowing, in saying good-bye to what could have been, but what never was -
your truth.

vi. interlude (indigo)


vii. ritual enacted (violet)

I’d been on testosterone for almost four months. My voice had dropped a minor third. I was singing with others in the woods. I love singing with my lower voice. The person in front of me turned around and said, “There is so much soul in your song.” 

i was singing last week,
from the well in the back of my throat,
and for a second, 
it sounded like i could hear my own soul.