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Reflecting on "The Immigrants"

Challenging the narratives that own immigrant stories


Scored for flute, violin, and piano, “The Immigrants” is an 8 minute, one-movement work that portrays an alternative depiction of an immigrant’s journey in the United States. Often, successful immigrant stories control the narrative: overcoming struggle, hard work, connecting with love and finally gaining economic relief. Originally this piece was set to be the retelling of the origins of South Bend, from Potawatomi to Polish to the Great Migration from the South during the 1930’s. However a demanding voice emerged through the writing process. His story was not one of success, or of love. Paul’s story begins as all great adventure stories do: with excitement, reflection and hope. In the opening, the violin plays his joyful immigrant anthem, right before he boards the train. Through out the piece Polish folk rhythms and melodies are interlaced between pieces of music describing physical locations. The buzzing crowds of people leaving a train, the lonely walk of employment on skid row, and finally the taxing laborious job he finds in which he commits his days and nights to. The workload slowly destroys his connection to his home, as the folk anthems slowly fade from the piece. His dreadful work takes his health; he can’t afford to die yet he can’t afford to live. The violin closes the piece with his last breath. Without any living kin or money, Paul is buried in a pauper’s grave.

American Modern Ensemble performs "The Immigrants" at Mostly Modern Festival in June 2018.

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