Exploring trauma through music: Stephen Caldwell's "Pre-Existing Condition"

Mar 13, 2018

Schola Cantorum presents the world premiere of "Pre-Existing Condition" this week at the Faulkner Performing Arts Center.
Credit University of Arkansas Music Department


Sometimes music helps us through our darkest moments.

That's exactly the case with "Pre-Existing Condition," which Stephen Caldwell, director of choral activities at the University of Arkansas, composed following the harrowing experience of caring for a newborn son born with seven heart conditions. 

The intense piece written for voice, percussion and flute comes out of what Caldwell describes as "a very stressful and intense place, full of constant motion, and constant sound." Composed for his students Schola Cantorum, "Pre-Existing Condition" presents a soundscape that mimics the ominous menagerie of medical equipment that fills the rooms, days and nights of every sick child in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.

"I found it very good for my soul when I was composing it," says Caldwell, "and all of that kind of came together in moments of joy and ecstasy and moments of extreme sadness too."

Listen to the full interview with Of Note's Katy Henriksen via the streaming link above.