work details

A Chain is Broken

  • Instrumentation: SATB, tenor, piano, optional violin
  • Completed: August 2019
  • Duration: 4 minutes
  • Texts: An original commissioned poem by Khashayar Tonekaboni
  • Commission and Dedication::

    Commissioned by NOTUS: Indiana University Contemporary Vocal Ensemble - Dominick DiOrio, director, and made possible with funding from Indiana University’s New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Program.


  • Composer's Note:

    A Chain is Broken is a musical setting of an original poem, Earth’s Anthem, by Iranian-American author and poet Khashayar Tonekaboni (pen name Terry Pinaud). The poem is a creative reimagining of the poet’s own experience of starting a new life in the United States, after he moved here from Iran to study at Indiana University. In the poem, Tonekaboni writes in both Persian and English, as he illustrates the difficulties associated with finding a new way when he was also gradually learning to understand a new language. As the poem progresses, its initial uncertainty turns to feelings of aspiration, optimism, and joy, even while still recognizing that “with freedom comes a cost.”

    The music is also aspirational in its trajectory, moving from the opening murkiness in which a tenor soloist is heard over a foggy confusion of English words to an ever more powerful clarity infused with rhythmic propulsion and drive.

    The work was written by DiOrio for NOTUS—the contemporary vocal ensemble at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music—to perform at the 12th World Symposium on Choral Music in Auckland. (Ultimately, the premiere was postponed due to the coronavirus.) The commissioning of the music and the text were both made possible with support from the Indiana University New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Extraordinary Opportunity program.

  • Text:

    Gham daaram, Maadar                                               I’m sad, Mother
    Kojayee, Pédar?                                                           Where are you, Father?
    Gharibeh-am keh dar                                                 I’m a stranger
    Beyneh gharibeh-haast                                                Among strangers

    Deerooz, baa ham boodeem                                       Yesterday, we were together
    Deerooz, khandeh                                                       Yesterday, there was laughter
    Chehreh-ye Maadar, keh feda kardeh                        Mother’s countenance and her sacrifice
    Khaterehi tanha beyneh sedaahaast                            Are but memories among the voices

    Cheh meegooyand?                                                     What are they saying?
    Cheh meeporsand?                                                      What are they asking?
    Beh cheh meekhandand?                                            What makes them laugh?
    Gom-shodeh injaa tanhaast                                        He who is lost is here alone

    Do they understand?
    A smile and
    A nod and
    A barrier is crossed

    And I see unity
    Of ideas, of thoughts that brings
    Laughter at laughable things
    Together, engendering trust

    A new world is at hand
    New faces, new expressions
    Together in diverse collections
    An ocean of love and lust

    For freedom stands
    Facing me, embracing me
    Carrying, chasing me
    From maybe to must

    Certainty replaces
    Trepidation and fear
    Friends and lovers are here
    Laughing, crying, their faces embossed

    With joy, with pain
    Still, a chain is broken
    And moods are spoken
    But with freedom comes a cost

    Dear to bear the burden of
    Standing on both feet and
    Shouting to the world, taking a stand
    I am no longer tossed

    On the waves of will
    Of others.  I’ll speak
    For me and mine, no longer meek
    And for the globe in whose crust

    Is baked the love of all
    Sometimes hidden
    Some forbidden
    But never is Mother thrust

    In the dark of hate
    For long when all the I’s
    Proclaim Earth’s anthem never dies
    Singing the stories of each of us.

  • Performances:

    Premiere postponed due to the coronavirus.