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Cassandra, Illinois

4 voices (SSMM)




Commissioned by Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble

Premiered October 30, 2018, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Text by composer

I wrote the text and tune for Cassandra, Illinois after driving through a particular, eerily empty rural village en route from Chicago to Peoria. A cluster of silos loomed over the main road. There was a deserted baseball diamond at the base of the silos; it and the surrounding fields were dry and carpeted in dust. When Quince asked what I might want to arrange for a program themed around Dust Bowl-era folk bard Woody Guthrie, this song came to mind. Because here we are, setting the Earth on fire, hastening another, vaster increase of parched fields and displaced people. We can't say we weren't warned....

Like a river flows the grain

In the silo’s shadow eighteen men

Run the dusty diamond

Til the sun sinks down again


Like a river running dry

The elevator grits and grinds

The men have left the diamond

Yet the dust is on the rise


Where once it swelled its shore

The farmers’ river runs no more

And where the eighteen lie today

I could not say for sure



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