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LYRIC: How'll You Know

A series of haunting existential questions posed as if by a pack of wolves forms the text of Todd's 10th collaboration with composer Jake Runestad, who set it for a cappella SATB choir.

Photo by Thomas Bonometti

Jake brought the concept of howling wolves to Todd. Rather than write an attempted explication of the sound, or

anthropomorphize it, or comment upon it, Todd chose to imagine it as an inquiry, a sounding in the dark, a plumbing of depths, that invites listener interpretation, thereby retaining its mystery.


Who'll you follow through the snow?

How'll you know where you need to go?

Are our hours ours, ours alone?

How are you more than the store of your bones?

The text's interrogatives are infused with o and oo vowels and diphthongs designed to give the choir a unique sonic palette worthy of wolves' most eerie and inscrutable vocalizations. Jake's setting enacts a subtle passage of leadership from male to female voices, inviting questions about what humans can learn from the gender-roles and socializations exhibited by other species.

Truly haunting!  Rick Bjella, Artistic Director, San Antonio Chamber Choir

The piece runs roughly 8 minutes in length and concludes in a loose cacophony of howls. It was commissioned and is slated to premiere by San Antonio Chamber Choir in May of 2023.

The score will soon be available to performing arts organizations from JR Music.

Jake and I had been discussing this project for several days by the time I found myself driving California's wide, otherworldly San Joaquin Valley, the Sierra Nevadas in the distance, where the words "how'll you know where you need to go" occurred to me. As a nomad, I felt it made sense to frame wolves' howls as questions, rather than statements. They have that quality. They seem to inquire of the wind and sky. What do they ask? What would we ask?

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