Future Folk Songs

Future Folk Songs


five speculative folk songs for TTBB chorus (13’)

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Completed in March, 2019.

Commissioned by Chor Leoni. World premiere on April 12, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada by Chor Leoni, conducted by Erick Lichte.

Text by Zachary Wadsworth.

Program note

Future Folk Songs is a piece that imagines what themes and stories might so strongly define our present times that they ultimately inform the folk songs of the future. Folk songs, after all, often uniquely combine elements of universal human experience (like love, loss, longing, and laughter) with more specific details about history, national and regional identity, and cultural and technological change. In these songs, I hoped to combine universal themes with specific details of our modern life.

We live in times of truth-telling, from the #MeToo movement to the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in Canada, South Africa, Germany, and elsewhere. “Truth Song,” reflects on the importance of remembering the wrongs of the past, focusing particularly on the residential school system in Canada. I did not live, and could never adequately speak to, the pain of those who experienced this system and its lasting effects, nor do I intend to speak for anyone who did. In this song, I hope instead to condemn a violent past, and to encourage a future in which society refuses to forget (or ignore) it.

We also live in a world increasingly touched by digital technology. “Screen Song” is a lullaby in which a parent implores a child to put down their device, silence the “voices” of the internet, and go to sleep. “Working Song” also deals with technology, asking what kinds of working songs might be sung in a time when hard labor is increasingly done by machines.

Finally, we live in a time of enormous ecological and environmental change. “Mountain Song” is a love song in a time of global warming. “Mars Song” mixes humor with poignancy and sarcasm to imagine an upbeat advertisement for life on Mars.