Passing Stranger (2020)

Lyric Baritone & 2 Flutes

Text by Walt Whitman

Total duration ca. 4'

Single-movement work

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Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $10

Baritone Ross Tamaccio requested a setting of this text after we worked together on a performance of The Need of Comrades, my other text settings from Whitman’s Calamus. The multi-sectional poem celebrates of homoerotic affection, this affection between men (and people of all genders) serving as an analogy for social unification and fellowship following the American Civil War. This particular section, which illustrates a sudden moment of attraction to a stranger, strikes at the heart of the viscerality and universality of Whitman’s view of affection. A whole life is envisioned, an instinct of familiarity, these hallmarks of attraction illustrate the level of investment Whitman wishes us to have even in strangers. In speaking to me about setting this text, Ross voiced concerns about how we will move forward as a society through the 2020 pandemic, especially how physical affection will change. We chose this text and I created this setting in the hope of a future in which this kind of scene could happen and could lead to love.


Text taken from Calamus, from the 1866 edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. This poem is in the public domain.